• A Martu Kukutja diabetic Elder, was challenged for being too drunk to get on the bus after hypo. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
A Martu Kukutja Elder from a remote town who suffers from diabetes is too scared to go to her next medical appointment after being told she looked ‘too drunk to get on the bus'.
By
Laura Morelli

22 Jun 2017 - 2:37 PM  UPDATED 22 Jun 2017 - 6:42 PM

An Indigenous woman fears to return to Broome for medical treatment after she was told she was 'too drunk' to catch a bus, and then allegedly threatened by the driver that she would be kicked off during a nine-hour journey.

Last month Indigenous woman Flora travelled to Broome from the remote WA community of Mulan for a medical appointment. She is in her sixties and has heart and kidney problems, as well as diabetes which requires ongoing treatment. She can speak up to 14 languages but English is not her first language, and as a result, she missed her bus home.

Flora waited for several hours for the night bus at the Broome Tourist Bureau, and while there she went into a state of hypoglycaemia - a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose level has dropped too low, and she needed urgent medical attention. Her husband Cam, a Walmajarri man, said if it wasn’t for the help of a kind stranger, she could have died.

Cam told NITV News that when the bus arrived his wife was initially refused permission to board.

“When my wife went to get on the bus, the driver challenged her saying that ‘she was too drunk’ when in fact, she was actually still recovering from the hypo,” Cam said.

“The Greyhound Bus driver said to my wife - a kidney and heart patient and a sick Elder, that if she ‘misbehaved’ on the bus, no matter where they were, he would ‘kick her off the bus’.

The journey home took more than nine hours, which Cam said was an uncomfortable and traumatic ride for Flora.

“During the trip she asked the bus driver to turn the heater on as it was too cold and he ignored her request. She was left having to drape the curtain window around her to keep her warm. She spent more than 8 hours on the bus worried that she would be kicked off, my wife was petrified.”

Cam said the incident had been deeply distressing for his wife.

“My wife suffers from heart and kidney problems as well as diabetes. White talk is probably a fourth or fifth language for her,” he said.

"This sort of stuff happens all the time. We're sick of it so happening to us mob, something needs to be done."

Cam said The Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS) which organised the trip to and from Broome for Flora's appointment, didn't make it clear enough that a patients’ return ticket wouldn't be booked until after they attended their hospital appointment, and as a result, his wife ‘didn’t know where to go or what to do’.

“My wife slept rough on the streets with some blankets that locals in Broome gave her. The next morning she went to a parish in Broome and was fortunately given bread and tea.”

PATS told NITV News it is currently piloting the translation of an information video about PATS into Aboriginal languages.

This treatment is not unusual according to Cam, who said it happens often to Aboriginal people whose first language isn’t English when travelling from remote communities for medical treatment.

"This sort of stuff happens all the time. We're sick of it so happening to us mob, something needs to be done."

Greyhound Australia was contacted but refused to comment.

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES:
What do you give to racism?
Give nothing to racism. That’s what a brand new campaign is urging New Zealanders to do.
COMMENT: Racism stems from power, control, inequity, and greed - not our identity
Scott Gorringe explores how Aboriginal identities have been defined by outdated racial ideologies to assert difference rather than promote and encourage positive relationships.
10 times Indigenous Australians have experienced 'everyday' racism
New research suggests that Indigenous Australians are more likely to experience "everyday" racism and these 10 people have shared their real life stories.
COMMENT: Racism is not simply an education issue
Whenever there is a racist incident we hear people talk about the need for more education. And, to be fair, a lot of racism does stem from a lack of education, but that is only true for those who soak up the racist rhetoric in Australian media and politics, not those who create and exploit that racism in the first place, Luke Pearson says.