Volunteer brings first aid knowledge to Australia’s most remote community  

Press Release

Australia’s most remote Indigenous community has received its first public defibrillator during a visit from a St John WA (SJWA) volunteer.  

Teacher and SJWA Dawesville volunteer Jade Maitland-Smith delivered the automated external defibrillator (AED) to Kiwirrkurra last month.  

Kiwirrkurra is nestled deep in the Gibson Desert on Pintupi country, about 1200km east of Port Hedland near the Northern Territory border.  

There is a school, store, health clinic and art centre, with drinking water needing to be delivered regularly to its 180 residents.  

As a teacher with the Department of Education, Jade got the special opportunity to visit Kiwirrkurra as part of a program to connect teachers with remote communities.  

During her fortnight-long stay, Jade shared some of the knowledge she has gained as a SJWA volunteer by hosting First Aid Focus classes for local school children. 

“By far the most enthusiastic group was the Kindy to year three class of just eight children,” she said. 

“They absolutely loved their little pictures I glued into the ambulance certificate and thoroughly enjoyed the workbooks. 

“The year four to six class, which is 12 children, much preferred the practical skills such as practising the recovery position and bandaging.”  

Jade also taught school staff how to use the new AED.   

“Considering the closest doctor or hospital is 695km away in Alice Springs, the community having access to quality first aid training is of the utmost importance,” she said.  

“Knowing how to use the defibrillator could provide lifesaving intervention and give the nurses time to get to the incident from their homes.”  

Jade said she hoped to see SJWA work with the Ngaanyatjarra Land Council to train more high schoolers, rangers and other community members in vital first aid.   

“Training for such a remote community like Kiwirrkurra would have a huge impact on saving lives in the future,” she said.  

Jade said her favourite part of the experience was meeting renowned artist Yalti Napangati, one of the famous Pintupi Nine.  

The Pintupi Nine were a small group of Australian Aboriginal people who lived a traditional nomadic lifestyle in the Gibson Desert.  

Their story made headlines across the world because the group were unaware of European colonisation until 1984, when they emerged and reunited with their relatives near Kiwirrkurra. 

“We were also visited by anthropologist, Fred Myers who had lived in Papunya in the Northern Territory for a year in the 1970s,” she said. 

“He gave a moving and informative session with photos from the 70s and 80s, including some short films from the first school.   

“Hearing him talk with everyone in language was just music to my ears.  

“Everyone was very friendly; it was really refreshing.   

“Kiwirrkurra is a community strong in language and culture and it was a real pleasure and privilege to have been able to be a part of it, even for a short time.”  

Find out more about volunteering with SJWA here.

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