Grace Comes Full Circle

Punmu 2012

Grace Hendriks (2013)

I was part of the Immersion Program to Punmu as a Year 11 student in 2012. I graduated from the College in 2013. After graduation, I studied a Bachelor of Physiotherapy. I’ve now been working in Port Hedland at the Hedland Health Campus as a senior physiotherapist.

For the last 18 months, I have been the physio that services the Western Desert with the Allied Health Team as part of my role. Between March and October, I travel two and a half hours in a six-seater plane to Punmu and Kunawarritji. We stay for two days and are there six times a year. I deliver a physiotherapy service, run lung health education in schools, and yarn to the women about pelvic health and everything else in between. 

I remember the first time I flew into the community, I had butterflies in my stomach. I was so excited to see it again. All the memories came flooding back instantly. It was a very special moment in my life.

Building rapport can often be difficult and can take a few visits for the community members to get to know you and trust your service. I travel with the rest of the ‘red shirt mob’ as we are known in the community. The red shirt mob also includes a speech pathologist and occupational therapist. We often team up together to run programs for the students.

Punmu 2022

Being a Santa Maria girl who went to Punmu, bringing this up with community members when yarning with them has made an enormous difference to my rapport building skills. Their faces often light up when I tell them, as they loved it when the Santa Maria students came. They start asking me if I know this child or this child, all who have grown now. Some I can still remember. It’s very cool to see them still in the community, all grown up!

The mural we painted at the school in 2012 was the second one. It’s still there, as well as the next seven to eight years’ worth, making the school look very colourful. It’s so awesome to see!

Punmu has come a long way in the past ten years, with so many things for the kids to do. It’s an absolute highlight and privilege to come back to this community and serve it as an Allied Health clinician.

I have also established the Hedland Fairgame Hub, which sees 40 indigenous kids come down to the local community centre for Sports games and a healthy meal every Monday. Fairgame is a not-for-profit organisation based in Perth. When I moved up here, I saw a need for something similar for the indigenous kids, hence starting this project. Fairgame uses recycled sports equipment to deliver healthy community programs. This project started very small two years ago with eight kids and has grown dramatically since. 

The 2012 Punmu Immersion trip ignited my passion for working with Indigenous populations. The positive eye-opening experience I was given then, has not only guided my career thus far, but also my everyday life.

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