Tiwi art and family in the fabric of AFL Indigenous Round designs

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(ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson) ABC Radio Darwin

By Jesse Thompson and Liz Trevaskis

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June 02, 2018 07:30:53

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Jennifer ‘Lulu’ Coombes designed the guernseys to be worn by the Hawks.
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“It was about a dreaming and about creation, that sort of stuff, and it just resonated with us in a way that we thought would be good with the Dreamtime.”From Tiwi to Melbourne, the guernsey will be worn at tonight’s annual Dreamtime at the G clash between Essendon and Richmond. Photo:
Arthurina Moreen (centre) designed the guernseys to be worn by the Bombers in the Dreamtime clash. How do I come into this?’,” she said.She was so nervous it took her a few weeks to accept his offer of designing the Hawks’ guernsey for this year. “I’ve always seen the jumpers and I thought one day I want to do one, but I couldn’t believe that someone was asking me to do one.”Tiwi culture, AFL styleMs Coombes said it was emotional when Rioli got his hands on the final design earlier this year.”I think we both were feeling proud that we’d been able to showcase our culture as well as the footy and merging them together was really good,” she said.Emblazoned in the Hawks’ signature yellow, the guernsey depicts three rising Pukumani Poles animated with vibrant traditional colours.Ms Coombes said the poles played an important role in life on the Tiwis, typically appearing in ceremonies when someone had died.”It’s usually the deceased person, their brother-in-law or sister-in-law carves a tree and decorates the pole with certain designs.”Usually it takes about six months, the whole mourning period for doing the Pukumani.”Then they have the final ceremony that probably lasts a day and they actually place the Pukumani pole around the gravesite to keep the evil spirits away from the deceased.”

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Ms Coombes’ design was inspired by Pukumani poles, like those at the Darwin airport. “Most of them really took it on board and were excited by the opportunity, especially to have the chance to go down to Dreamtime for a week and watch the game,” Tiwi Girls’ Academy coordinator Rhiannon Parker said.”I felt pretty stressed for the rest of them because there were so many good designs that we sent away and I couldn’t pick between them.”Arthurina’s winning design was chosen by Indigenous Bombers Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Jake Long and Luke Lavender, who was born in the NT and has family in Alice Springs.”I couldn’t believe the designs these kids came up with actually — they were incredible,” he said.”There were a lot of different stories with the different jumpers, but hers was simple. Photo:
Ms Coombes’ design is a hit among her family. (Supplied: AFL NT)
“I said, ‘Oh, that sounds exciting. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
The reverse side shows an interpretation of a Kulama, a three-day, three-night celebration that heralds the beginning of the dry season.According to Ms Coombes, local support for her involvement is fervent and many will be watching the match from their homes in the Tiwi Islands.She said that in the football-loving community, people who didn’t barrack for Essendon wanted to buy the guernsey.Schoolgirl behind Dreamtime designThe Essendon jumper, meanwhile, was also designed by the hand of a Tiwi footballer trained by her family.”My painting represents Tiwi culture in the way that the land and dots represent the elders that taught me to paint,” said the designer, 18-year-old Tiwi College student Arthurina Moreen. (Supplied: Tiwi College)
When her school, alongside Xavier Catholic College on Bathurst Island, was approached by Essendon Football Club to come up with the design, the interest from students was immense. “I just couldn’t believe it — I think it was just nerves. The opportunity to design guernseys for the AFL Indigenous Round unites three pillars of life on the remote Tiwi Islands — art, family and footy.Jennifer “Lulu” Coombes is an artist from the islands north of Darwin whose work, and the culture it depicts, will soon be witnessed by spectators around Australia.She is one of the handful of artists to have designed the guernseys worn in the AFL Indigenous round.Ms Coombes began working at Munupi Arts on Melville Island when she finished school, often with the guidance of her grandfather, and in between joining the multitudes of locals taking a punt on the field.”Footy was like a second religion for us over there; everyone loves it,” she said.Last February, she got a message from Hawthorn premiership player Cyril Rioli, one of the Tiwi Islands’ best-known sporting exports and the son of Ms Coombes’ cousin.He told her they needed an artist.
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‘So many kids were dying’: Meet the Perth woman saving lives in Cambodia

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(ABC News: Tracey Shelton)
“Based on global prevalence rates, we estimate about 2,000 cases in Cambodia with 30 more babies born with Haemophilia per year,” said Dr Chean Sophal, who worked with Robyn as head of haematology at the National Paediatric Hospital (NPH) in Phnom Penh.Ms Devenish, Dr Sophal and Mr Harknett took on a new struggle to establish the Cambodian Haemophilia Foundation so the country could receive international supplies of factor VIII.”The publicity around Sokmao was really the catalyst for haemophilia being recognised and addressed for the first time in Cambodia,” said Mr Harknett. (ABC News: Louch Sopheak)
Ms Devenish had noticed frequent cases of anaemia that were routinely diagnosed as iron deficiency, but she felt this could instead be thalassemia, a genetic haemoglobin disorder. “It was very, very good to have her in Cambodia.”‘I want to thank you for all of my life’

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Sokmao receives treatment in hospital (Supplied: Steve Harknett)
Over the next 12 years, Ms Devenish went on to raise almost half a million dollars to buy lab equipment, train staff and produce booklets in Khmer explaining to patients how they could manage their conditions — providing them with the answers they so desperately needed.”The Cambodian staff were just like sponges taking it all in,” she said.”At the end of every year, I’d see something else terrible happening — like the haemophilia boys — and I’d think I have to stay longer to fix this or fix that.”

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Ms Devenish was awarded the king’s medal for her work in Cambodia. Photo:
Haemophilia can cause crippling swelling of the limbs. (ABC News: Tracey Shelton)
Her studies revealed that around 40 per cent of the national population were carriers with 1 per cent suffering from severe forms of thalassemia which inhibit growth.”If they do not receive regular blood transfusions they will not grow,” said Dr Sophal, who is now managing around 250 thalassemia cases.”They will not develop normally and they may die at a young age.”Since Ms Devenish established testing, around 1,000 Cambodians are now receiving treatment countrywide.”She went many times to different provinces … where she trained all laboratory technicians there also, so she did a lot of job, a lot of things,” Dr Sophal said. Photo:
Ms Devenish trained staff all over Cambodia to test and treat blood disorders. They said, ‘Robyn don’t bother. Suspecting a blood disorder, he took the boy to Ms Devenish.A quick test confirmed Sokmao had haemophilia — a hereditary blood disorder affecting only males that prevents the blood from clotting, meaning even a minor cut could prove fatal.Ms Devenish had already had several confrontations with well-meaning surgeons, who had tried to operate on boys with swollen knees like Sokmao’s, mistaking the symptoms for osteomyelitis or polio.She said of one case, “I had to just about have a fistfight with the doctor to stop the surgery.”At other hospitals, boys had died on the operating table as doctors were unable to stop the bleeding. Small cuts would bleed endlessly. (ABC News: Tracey Shelton) Key points:Haemophilia affects 1 in 5,000 males globallyBefore Ms Devenish’s work, Cambodia lacked facilities for blood disordersMore than 1,000 children are now being treated country-wide
Haemophilia had already claimed the lives of her first son at just 3 months old and her younger brother at 12.Sokmao’s joints would swell to crippling levels, leaving him bedridden in their tiny rural home, unable to attend school. Photo:
Mr Harknett, Mr Steingruber and Ms Devenish take Sokmao and his mother for lunch in Phnon Penh in 2006. Photo:
Dr Chean Sophal oversees the testing and treatment Ms Devenish established in Phnom Penh. Cleaning his teeth would often cause his gums to bleed for days.”I was so scared for my son but we had so little money, and every doctor we visited sent us away with nothing,” Ms Seng said.Finally, when Sokmao was 10, they found an answer through an Australian volunteer scientist and a simple blood test that took 15 minutes and 5 millilitres of her son’s blood.’Robyn don’t bother’

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After 10 years of chronic sickness, Din Sok Mao was diagnosed with haemophilia and began receiving treatment in 2006. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he opened the door to so many other children getting treated in the country.”The foundation, now run by a young man diagnosed as a child by Ms Devenish, has 180 members.Another crippling blood disorder revealed

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Siblings Sokpin, 17, and Soknoun, 22, suffer from the growth-inhibiting disorder thalassemia. (ABC News: Tracey Shelton)
“There wasn’t any treatment for haemophilia at that time,” Ms Devenish said.”But just to have a diagnosis is something — at least they know then not to play with knives and play football.”Ms Devenish was able to provide basic treatment by spinning down blood donations to separate the plasma, while Mr Harknett wrote to the Phnom Penh Post about Sokmao’s case.The resulting article caught the attention of Australian donor Paul Freer and Alfred Steingruber, who became Sokmao’s sponsor, supplying factor VIII clotting agent from Austria. (Supplied)
After returning to Australia and fighting her own battle with cancer, Ms Devenish now plans to return to Cambodia with the Tabitha Foundation to help establish a hospital for women.”Its going to be in the poor area of Phnom Penh where there are hundreds of thousands of factory workers who have no real access to health treatment,” she said.Meanwhile, back in Cambodia, her legacy continues to grow as more children are diagnosed each day as a result of the work and training she has given to local doctors.For Sokmao — now 22 and working as a security guard in Phnom Penh — the result has been both life-saving and life-changing.”After I had the medication, my life changed dramatically because I could go to school and I can do many other thing as well,” he said.”Before I couldn’t walk but now I can run.”When he was first diagnosed in 2006, Sokmao drew a picture during a special lunch with Ms Devenish, Mr Harknett and Mr Steingruber — who remains his sponsor — with the words he echoed 12 years later: “I want to thank you for all of my life.”

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Sokmao, aged 10, holds a drawing that reads ‘I want to thank you for all of my life,’ and Sokmao today. (Supplied)
Cambodia was still struggling to recover from the Khmer Rouge regime that decimated the population and infrastructure in the late 70s, targeting the educated — including all medical staff and doctors — for torture and execution.The medical field was decades behind the technology and treatment available back home in Perth. (Supplied: Steve Harknett)
While Ms Devenish was training lab staff and doctors to test for and treat various diseases, young Sokmao was referred to the Disability Development Services Program.Community worker Steve Harknett noticed immediately the swelling in Sokmao’s knee was not a deformity. When Seng Malai’s second son began showing symptoms of a hereditary disorder, she thought she was cursed. (ABC News: Tracey Shelton)
The test was administered by Robyn Devenish, who arrived in Cambodia from Perth in 2001.Ms Devenish saw that aid groups and international funds were supporting HIV and infectious diseases like TB, but there was little interest in, and no local knowledge of, haematological disorders.Hundreds of children like Sokmao were undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, receiving misguided treatments that were expensive and sometimes life-threatening.”There was so much misdiagnosis and it used to break my heart that so many kids were dying,” Ms Devenish said. Photo:
18-month-old thalassaemia patient Meng Leng receives her monthly blood transfusion. But there were many other cases to come. The Khmer doctors won’t understand and we can’t treat them,'” she said, adding that she could see children at the hospital she could help.”So even though I had this opposition and no support I went ahead and got the reagents and started the testing.”Sokmao’s case sparks national change in treatment

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Sok Mao at the family home in Pursat. (Supplied)
“I thought the only way to change this is to stay and volunteer,” she said.While the Angkor Hospital for Children had a basic lab, the staff lacked knowledge and equipment, so the first goal was to set up blood testing facilities and improve lab management systems to ensure the results were accurate.”The expat doctors I was working with were horrified.
'Life-changing' breakthrough for haemophilia patients
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The World

By Tracey Shelton

Updated

June 02, 2018 08:24:55

Video: 'So many kids were dying': Meet the Perth woman saving lives in Cambodia

(The World)