Maningrida kids – famous for all the wrong reasons

CEO blog – by Ingrid Stonhill, June 2019

I am a compassionate woman, perhaps more so because I am a mother. The gift of giving life is life changing.  The lens in which you view the world changes forever.  It becomes crucial to make the world a better place for our children to thrive and prosper.

Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is a bacterial disease, one that is passed from skin to skin. It is a disease of poverty.  It thrives in conditions of overcrowded living, where 20 people share a two bedroom, one bathroom house.  People sleep on bare mattresses or mats on the floor, with limited bedding and family pets sharing the space. Where cleanliness is absent, and hunger and poor nutrition are the norms, RHD takes hold. And worse, families can’t change the situation because living in poverty is all consuming.

RHD is a disease that attacks those that are the most vulnerable of our vulnerable, our children.  Maningrida, Northern Territory, Australia is a place of great natural beauty, and it has the highest rate per capita of Rheumatic Heart Disease in the world.

It seems so wrong on so many levels that a disease such as this, often associated with impoverished countries struggling to meet basic human needs, has hit the world stage in Australia, a country so rich and bountiful in opportunity, privilege, education and money.

I recall as a bright-eyed, 20 something adventurer travelling off to see the world on my own, a wise man told me ‘go see the world and enjoy the opportunities, but if you really want to learn, look deeper, observe, a country is only ever as good as the way it treats its poorest and most vulnerable’. There is a vast chasm between our most vulnerable and mainstream Australia; perhaps out of sight, out of mind, or do we just despair at the enormity of the problem?

Living in Maningrida has changed me.  I am a proud supporter of our national airline, and I still love flying to exciting new destinations.  But as I buckle up and listen to the cabin crew implore us to donate spare change to help provide fresh water to other countries, I find myself wanting to jump up and say “Why can’t we help our own kids first? We need to stop RHD killing our kids in the NT.  Shouldn’t we be fixing home first?”

In our small community of Maningrida with a transient population of about 3500, you will find many dedicated people.  Working extraordinary hours, doing extraordinary things to try and achieve remarkable results -making our world a better place, so our kids can thrive and prosper.

We are trying to stop a stoppable disease from killing our children, but we can’t do it alone.

So Australia, in the words of Lara, “where the bloody hell are you”, we need your help, please.