Aboriginal health expert
Northern Territory | 2021 Australian of the Year
For more than 30 years, Dr Wendy Page has worked to improve Aboriginal health in the communities of north-east Arnhem Land. In 1993, Wendy joined the Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation in Nhulunbuy, where she is now medical director.
Wendy has worked to eliminate strongyloidiasis. This chronic and potentially fatal disease caused by a parasitic roundworm is common in remote Aboriginal communities in northern Australia. Her efforts have been instrumental in reducing the prevalence of strongyloidiasis in north-east Arnhem Land from 60 per cent to below 10 per cent.
Wendy has published widely on the Strongyloides worm and is a world-renowned expert on the disease. She is also passionate about mentoring young doctors, serving as a supervisor in Nhulunbuy and as an examiner in Darwin to help registrars qualify as GPs.
Serenity prayer and Miwatj Health shirt
Wendy Page's work with the Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation in north-east Arnhem Land aims to improve rates of strongyloidiasis prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Wendy advocates for a national public health strategy to eliminate this most neglected of tropical diseases.
This serenity prayer sat on Wendy’s mother’s dressing table and its words have guided her throughout her life.
This is her favourite shirt. It represents the country and community she serves.
Working in Aboriginal health is hard — there’s so much to do. I need serenity to accept the things I cannot change. There will always be grief and loss. I need courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know what is, and what isn’t, within my sphere of influence.
More than a shirt
Miwatj translates to ‘Land of the First Sunrise’ in Yolngu. This is the region where the Gulf of Carpentaria meets the Arafura Sea in north-east Arnhem Land. The blue of the shirt reflects the colour of the sea, and the logo has the sunrise, a tern and dolphins. It’s an everyday shirt, and a representation of community, land and sea.
Head, heart, hand and soul
Yolngu talk about head, heart, hand and soul. In academic worlds, people focus on heads — Yolngu people read your heart first. Hand is what you do, and soul is something that is much more than just the three.
This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images supplied by the National Australia Day Council.