Sunrise Story

Sunrise’s philosophy is that health is the basis of life;
that it is all encompassing and is not simply about the physical body.

Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation emerged out of the Jawoyn Association’s continuing fight to “roll back history”. 

The Jawoyn Association is a body corporate which represents and promotes the views and aspirations of traditional Jawoyn landowners, and is fundamentally concerned with the provision of general social welfare to Jawoyn clans.

Jawoyn involvement in health began without government assistance.  Mortality rates and the associated costs involved with funeral expenses meant a vested interest in health was required to make changes.  Jawoyn began a self-funded Aged Care project that included:

  • Formalising of the Council of Elders Structure meetings;
  • Food voucher distribution;
  • Bush trips/ceremony;
  • Transport assistance;
  • Support for dialysis; and
  • Advocating for the right to die on country.

This initiative, combined with the disaster of the Katherine floods in 1998, found Jawoyn Association increasingly at the coal-face of dealing with Primary Health Care (PHC) issues, including chronic disease, the impact of acute hospitalisation and youth suicides in the region.

So in 2000, Jawoyn began discussions with The Fred Hollows Foundation to explore ways to improve health in the region.  The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy and Research was enlisted and a scoping study was conducted.  Community nutrition was identified as a high priority area, and as a result a comprehensive community nutrition program commenced tackling underlying issues and barriers along with the education of community members.

A submission to the Northern Territory and Commonwealth Governments was then developed to conduct a Coordinated Care Trial over the Jawoyn communities in the Katherine East Health Zone. The ‘Roper [River]’ traditional owners of Minyerri, Urapunga, Badawarrka and Ngukurr, and associated outstations expressed a strong interest in also becoming members of the trial.  This brought the trial population base into a more realistic number of clients for a viable outcome.

The submission was successful, and in 2002 the trial officially commenced.  The novation of the Coordinated Care Trial Agreement from Jawoyn to Sunrise occurred on August 1, 2003, following the incorporation of Sunrise Health Service under the Aboriginal Association’s Incorporation Act.

The Coordinated Care Trial offered the opportunity for an injection of resources for the development of more adequate and comprehensive Primary Health Care services under a community-control model.  The pooling of existing services provided a significant increase in the available health resources in the area.

Sunrise Health Service became a fully fledged service in mid-2005, and now successfully provides quality Primary Health Care services from nine health centres located in Barunga, Wugularr, Manyallaluk, Bulman, Mataranka, Jilkminggan, Minyerri, Ngukurr and Urapunga.  The outstations associated with these communities also have access to the services.

Since 2005, Sunrise has grown to employ more than 100 staff – of whom more than 60 per cent are Indigenous.

Sunrise takes direction from the Board which is made up of representatives from all of the Sunrise communities.

Community Health Committees operate in all communities and identify issues at the ‘grassroots’ level to help ensure that programs are delivered in a culturally appropriate way and that they encourage local ownership.


Sunrise Health Service's Core Values

Sunrise Health Service believes that healthy communities result when Indigenous people own and control their health services.  The core values that guide health service planning, delivery and evaluation for Sunrise Health Service are as follows:


  • We believe Indigenous community control is essential for health.
  • We want health programs to be holistic and culturally appropriate, incorporating traditional healing and the use of bush medicines.
  • We encourage two-way learning blending cultural way and “mununga” way to expand and maintain a strong health service.
  • We believe clinical services should be provided by Primary Health Care teams which incorporate interdisciplinary learning and action.We promote mutual respect between the staff and community. 
  • We believe in a fair go for everyone and to be open and transparent in all our business.
  • We are committed to regular communication with individuals, communities, and to the wider Australian community to promote health.
  • We respect client confidentiality and the individual’s rights to make their own decisions about health.
  • We actively seek and promote opportunities for Indigenous people to develop careers in health and training for Board members to advocate for health.
  • We are committed to developing the skills and knowledge of all staff through professional development opportunities.
  • We believe our staff is our most important asset to ensure a high quality of service provision.


The name ‘Sunrise’ refers to a custom of the region to self-describe those living east of the Stuart Highway as the ‘Sunrise’ or ‘Sun-come-up’ mob.  It is a term that is culturally inclusive, as well as expressive of the hopes that are held for Sunrise Health Service.’


For more information on the Jawoyn Association, CLICK HERE