Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory

Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island Enterprises Aboriginal Corporation (GEBIE)

Concerned about limited access to dental services for Anindilyakwa (the Aboriginal Traditional Owners, TOs) on Groote Eylandt, the Anindilyakwa Land Council approached TT in 2010 to improve dental services.  TT worked with GEBIE and Oral Health Services, Northern Territory (OHSNT) to develop a working partnership to improve the level of dental services on the island.

The mining company on the island, GEMCO, is also a partner and offers accommodation for the dental teams, who provide some private dental services for the mining community.  Since 2011 GEBIE has been using funding from mining royalties (the manganese mine on Groote is one of the largest sources of manganese ore in the world) to support the dental program.

TT has worked closely with GEBIE and OHSNT to organise the teams, and to encourage dentists and dental assistants to visit regularly, ie more than just one time.  This is working and we now have a core of dental professionals who are committed to helping the TOs on Groote.

The GEBIE dental teams generally work for a month at a time, in coordination with other visiting dental teams from OHSNT.  They are swamped with patients every time, and see very high rates of decay.  Young adults are losing all their teeth to decay.  Lack of regular toothbrushing is a contributing factor, but one of the greatest problems is the very high consumption of sweet fizzy cola drinks (no names mentioned but initials are CC), which are death to teeth.  As well as having negative impacts on other aspects of health like diabetes and obesity.

However the dental teams do the best they can to help, and we hope that in the long term, sugar will lose and health will win.

A special mention should also be given to GEBIE for funding the water fluoridation plants in the Anindilyakwa communities.

Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory Gallery

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