UFPA is one of Caritas Australia’s long-term partners in the First Australians Program. In 2003 Caritas started supporting UFPA, which runs a holistic, community-owned Australian Indigenous Wellness Program in Djarindjin and eight other communities across the Kimberley region.
Caritas CEO Jack de Groot said Ernie was instrumental in the establishment, development, management and implementation of the program, which strives to prevent diseases like diabetes and to improve healthcare across vulnerable Indigenous Australian communities.
Mr de Groot and Mark Green, Group Leader, First Australians Program, both recently spent time with Ernie and his family in Perth.
“To know of Ernie’s wonderful focus on walking with Aboriginal people so they become the owners of programs to prevent diabetes has been inspiring,” Mr de Groot said.
“It was lovely to have the time with Ernie recently to say thank you for all he has taught me. Ernie has taught all of us at Caritas a lot about friendship and partnership.
“He was a man of many talents, not only the founder of UFPA, but also a country and western singer, Western Australia’s first Aboriginal MP and the first Indigenous Cabinet minister in any Australian government.
“He has made a difference to all our lives, our communities and he matters, as do all our partners. It is the relationships with people like Ernie that enable us to live our mission each day.”
Mr Green said UFPA was also the fruit of Ernie’s own battle with diabetes and a determination that the rates at which First Australians are dying prematurely through chronic lifestyle diseases, be slashed.
“Ernie led his organisation with great humility and he empowered the UFPA staff to be innovative and to take risks,” Mr Green said.
“He dealt with his own people with the utmost respect. As a musician he also knew the healing power of song and dance.”
“I think he was able to do so much because he believed that much was possible.”
Media contact: Nicole Clements – 0408 869 833 or Nicolec@caritas.org.au