A brief History of Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Corporation

Princess Margaret Hospital held monthly clinics at the Aboriginal Advancement Council to provide immunisations and paediatric medical treatment. Princess Margaret Hospital supported the service as they recognised that our young Koolunga needed more follow up care. The monthly clinics increased from monthly to fortnightly and then weekly. Doctors and nurses from Princess Margaret Hospital also visited Allawah Grove Noongar Camp on the fringes of the metro area.

From this initial activity the seed was thus planted recognising that more health and medical support was desperately needed for all Aboriginal people not just the young. Princess Margaret Hospital should be recognised and acknowledged for the services they provided to Aboriginal families in the late 60's - early 70s.

The seed that was planted grew within the Noongar community and as a priority the next phase of the journey began. The word spread to the Noongar people and they formed the New Era Aboriginal Fellowship (NEAF) Committee - this Committee was inspirational in lobbying for contributions and community support to allow an independent, dedicated facility to be established where extended health care could be provided to those in need.

The campaign began and the offers from far and wide were overwhelming - the Trades and Labour Committee offered a vacant building, Doctors from Royal Perth Hospital and Community Health joined up and donated their time, sponsorship from individuals and companies provided the financial support to purchase resources and medical equipment. A submission was then made to the Government of the time to recognise the need to fund an Aboriginal Medical Service permanently in Perth. The Government in power declined and in their response asked why can't we just go to the major hospitals like everyone else, why do the "blackfellas" want special treatment.

This response encouraged the campaign of the Noongar people to shame the Government; the plan to use aggressive lobbying worked and this carried on for years until finally there was a change in Government that wanted to support the cause. In 1974, Perth Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) commenced in Beaufort St which opened with five staff, one Director the late Bill Forrest, one Aboriginal Health Worker Teresa Isaacs, one Social Worker Marian Kickett, one cleaner Aunty Joan Saylor and one Project Officer the late Neil Phillips.

PAMS grew quickly, employing more staff and gaining more clients. The rapid growth of our service meant we outgrew the facility in Beaufort St, and could no longer cater for our people there. A bigger building was necessary, and subsequently found. We then moved to Edward Street where the staff count increased to over 40. Our people couldn't be more proud of this achievement.

In 1998, we relocated to a purpose built facility in Wittenoom Street in the heart of East Perth, where we are today. The name also changed to Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service which refers to the Swan River. In close proximity on the same health campus are Yorgum and AADS supporting other health needs of our community.

Today over 40 years from those humble beginnings we are bigger, better and growing stronger as the Mother organisation in Noongar Boodja, a large employer of Aboriginal people and supported by non-Aboriginal staff, in total over 140 staff. We now have grown to have four successful, busy clinics in the major hubs of the Metropolitan area delivering a comprehensive healthcare service and a number of specialised programs throughout. We have a current database of over 15,000 clients registered are also responsible for an Accommodation Hostel which provides board and lodging to Aboriginal people attending Renal Dialysis in Perth who are away from home or Country.

We would like to acknowledge the NEAF members past and present for never giving in, which influenced the opening of other leading Aboriginal organisations such as the Aboriginal Legal Service.