Arnhem Land is the place she loves. It is a place that she advocates for bravely –- to ensure that the best parts are not swept away.
When she was old enough to broaden her horizons and travel, she became acutely aware of a disparity between access to essential health care in her home region and other places.
“I witnessed really good people leaving to find care elsewhere,” she says.
“About 80 percent of the mortality gap for people aged 35-74 years is due to chronic diseases.”
So Sarah completed a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, a university degree focused on prescribing the correct dosage of exercise for chronic diseases.
She then completed a Masters in Physiotherapy and, in 2011, began the first on-the-ground physiotherapy practice in Arnhem Land.
“Now we have a team of five physiotherapists, all of whom live in Arnhem Land,” Sarah says.
“Our being local forms the cornerstone of our business. We live within and are a part of the communities we serve.”
In 2014, the curtailment of the Gove alumina refinery led to an exodus of small businesses from the township. The refinery’s closure led to fears for the future of Nhulunbuy – and untold heartache for the community.
“While some businesses left, I believed in a happier future than others and took an opportunity to secure housing to support my dream at the bottom of the market.
“I have a strong faith in the Yolngu Traditional Owners and their commitment to small business, so I invested in housing in the face of professed risks.”
In 2016, the local GP closed overnight, leaving the community without a general practice for nearly two years. As a practising health professional, Sarah was confronted with the impacts of this daily. She resolved that a town without a GP could not continue.
“It took all the courage I had,” she says.
But with the support of her most trusted loved ones, Sarah invested in, designed, built and opened the GP practice, Arnhem Family Medical Clinic.
“It has ensured that Nhulunbuy residents today can access the sort of care that all Australians should have fair and reasonable access to,” she says. She stood up again in 2021 by establishing the first on-the-ground occupational therapy service in Arnhem Land through Arnhem Allied Health Centre.
Today the Arnhem Allied Health Centre’s team takes physiotherapy and occupational therapy to every community across East Arnhem.
“Delivering the finest allied health care to the furthest corners of East Arnhem Land. This was my dream.”
Sarah remains positive about Arnhem Land’s future.
“Our future and happiness in Arnhem Land is connected to each person that we share it with.
“I want to see each person in our community well enough to focus on living out their own dreams, to give their own something back to Arnhem Land.
“I realise that the happier and healthier an individual is, the more their eyes will be opened to ideas and opportunities; so, my goal is to help each person live their best life here.”
What began as a personal dream for Sarah in developing Arnhem Physiotherapy Services and Arnhem Allied Health Centre has broadened.
Her dream has unfolded to help bring happiness, vitality and success to the people and community she so loves – all for Arnhem Land.