Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy has revealed she did not attend Garma because she was rushed to hospital from question time in Canberra to urgently treat a kidney infection.
The Yanyuwa woman, from Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria, has been a fixture at the festival as a political figure and in her former career as a TV reporter.
She said that last week’s episode was related to polycystic kidney disease, a condition she was diagnosed with four years ago but has only now revealed to the public.
"It's a reality of my life that I have now," Ms McCarthy told NITV News.
"I have to manage that as best I can. I need to be mindful of the work duties I have, the travel that I do, that I take care of myself and it is a reality that sometimes the PKD, as its known, gets the better of me."
The chronic disorder means that she has enlarged kidneys with thousands of cysts.
It is an inherited, genetic disease which disproportionately affects Indigenous Australians.
There is no cure.
"There is a lot of pain and discomfort that comes with it," Ms McCarthy said.
“I just think it's important to be able to talk about it in a very public way because the ultimate road for polycystic kidney disease is renal treatment or a kidney transplant.”