In 1979 The Pitjantjatjara Homelands Health Service was established following the secondment of Dr David Scrimgeour from Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. It consisted of a medical officer, two registered nurses, Aboriginal health workers and an administrator. It was based at Kalka, a resource centre in South Australia, to service the communities of Pipalyatjara, Wingellina, Blackstone, Jameson, and Warakurna. A clinic run to each community was to occur fortnightly but owing to the frequency of emergency evacuations, a chronic lack of transport and poor roads, this turned out to be almost impossible.
In 1982 it was decided to base a registered nurse in a more central position, so a caravan was placed in Blackstone. At that time, the health service changed its name to the Pitjantjatjara Ngaanyatjarra Homelands Health Service. This nurse serviced Blackstone, Jameson and Warakurna, with Wingellina and Pipalyatjara serviced from Kalka.
In 1984 the first clinic buildings were erected in each community. Before this, clinic sessions were conducted under a tree from the tray of a utility. Converted sea containers were established at Wingellina, Jameson and Warakurna, with Blackstone community deciding to erect a more permanent building using funds the community contributed.
The Ngaanyatjarra Health Service was formed in July 1985 following a separation from Pitjantjatjara Ngaanyatjarra Homelands Health Service. In June 1987, the Ngaanyatjarra Health Service (Aboriginal Corporation) was incorporated under the Commonwealth Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act (1976), thereby becoming eligible for direct funding under Commonwealth/State health funding agreements. Staff accommodation was funded by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for three communities and a registered nurse was employed for each community clinic. Wingellina joined the NHS in 1986 and by 1987 all clinics had been upgraded and staff accommodation built.
Rapid expansion continued with the establishment of a clinic and staff in Tjirrkarli in December 1987, Tjukurla in June 1988, Kiwirrkurra in June 1989 and Wanarn in September 1990. The management of the Warburton Nursing Post was transferred from the Health Department of Western Australia to the NHS in January 1989, and the Cosmo Newberry clinic has been staffed and managed by the NHS since late 1993. A fortnightly clinic was held at Patjarr/Karilywara with nurses from Warburton doing the trip.
Now we have 11 primary health care centres in communities across the Ngaanyatjarra lands. Eight of these are permanently staffed by experienced Remote Area Nurses, Aboriginal Health Workers and allied health staff while the remaining three (Patjarr, Tjirrkarli and Tjukurla) are outreach clinics. We also run an 18-bed aged care facility in Wanarn Community.