When Terry Mungul decided to get his weight and diabetes under control to be eligible for a kidney transplant, men in his remote Kimberley community jumped onboard his health kick.
For Mr Mungul the remoteness of Bidyadanga, which is home to 750 people and is about 180 kilometres south of Broome, meant his only option was home dialysis.
He had been in Perth for training late last year when his name was added to the kidney transplant list.
He soon discovered a transplant would not be that simple, to be eligible for surgery he would have to lose weight and take control of his type 2 diabetes.
“It’s a hard change but I’m getting there.”
Embarking on the lifesaving transformation was daunting, but Mr Mungul felt surrounded by support from his community.
He started by asking friend and coordinator of Community Resource Centre Francis Fernandez to join him on daily walks around the oval.
Understanding the health complications Mr Mungul was experiencing, Mr Fernandez wanted to ensure his friend was getting the best advice about his health and fitness and brought in an expert.
Boab Health exercise physiologist Sarah Ludowici had recently taken up the role of developing healthy lifestyle programs for Aboriginal communities throughout the Kimberley and was visiting Bidyadanga when she met Mr Fernandez.
The pair began conversations about how to best support Mr Mungul and other men at risk of health complications.
Soon after the Bidyadanga Men’s Fitness Class was born.
Men inspired to get fit
Mr Mungul said some of the men who joined the class confessed they had not taken control of their health and fitness since they played football in their younger years.
He said his health complications had made them nervous and inspired action, particularly as the threat of COVID-19 entering communities increased.
Ms Ludowici visits the men once a week to run the classes and perform health checks.
Mr Mungul said the program was simple and accessible for everyone.
Mr Fernandez said it was great to see the men inspired and motivated.
“The looks on their faces afterwards, they were all really proud of themselves,” he said.
Mental health benefits
Ms Ludowici said the program started with 10 participants and interest grew as the social benefits became evident.
She said fitness classes could also be a way to address high suicide rates among Aboriginal men in the Kimberley.
A mental health professional has engaged with the participants and there will be an opportunity for an Aboriginal health worker to come on board to support the program.
Mr Mungul said health services working collaboratively with Aboriginal people was the best way to get results.
“We all have to work together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” Mr Mungul said.
Mr Mungul has since received a successful transplant and is in recovery in Perth for the next two months.