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Prior to Miwatj Health, there was almost no primary healthcare provision by doctors in the bushland of East Arnhem Land.

If an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander patient required a doctor, they would be evacuated to a hospital in Darwin. Then, after receiving treatment, the patient would be returned to their home environment, which may often have been the cause of their illness. 

In response to the increasing need for a community-based health organisation encompassing East Arnhem Land, Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation was first conceptualised in 1991. It was the brainchild of ​elected Aboriginal members of the ATSIC Regional Council who asserted that Aboriginal people have a right to access high quality healthcare services close to where they live.

Miwatj Health Hands with sand
Miwatj Health eye check-up

In 1997, Miwatj opened its first clinic in Nhulunbuy, initially sending doctors to the neediest communities.

Patients​ from the Laynhapuy homelands were able see a doctor in a properly equipped facility, without having to travel to Darwin.

In 1999-2000, Miwatj registered as a training facility for Aboriginal Health Practitioners (AHPs), in response to a request from Indigenous elders.

In 2006, Miwatj welcomed Eddie Mulholland as Chief Executive Officer. Under Eddie’s leadership, Miwatj has gone from strength to strength, growing from one clinic of 20 staff with a budget of $1.5 million, to seven clinics and one well-being centre, a budget of $40 million and 300 staff – of whom at least 55% are Yolŋu.

The mission of Miwatj Health, as first conceived in the early Constitution, still remains the same: 

‘to provide resources and support to Yolŋu to enable them to assume control over the delivery of health services to the people of the Miwatj region.’ 

Today, Miwatj Health works with Yolŋu staff to value and embrace western institutions and science, while maintaining a strong Yolŋu culture and identity. 

At Miwatj Health, Yolŋu are now shaping their work, education, training and health service delivery mode.

Miwatj Health woman in pharmacy

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