Success Stories

It is great to be able to know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.


1. Bucket list moment for NDIS particpant.

Courtesy of Katherine Times - Roxanne Fitzgerald


A first-time trip to Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, has been an "overwhelming" eye opener for an NDIS participant who comes from a remote NT community of just 900 people.

From weaving though large crowds at Federation Square, to standing back to back with strangers on inner-city trams, she said her quiet life on the banks of the Roper River couldn't be any different.

From a young age, Peatra Robertson had dreams of meeting the stars of her beloved AFL team, the Geelong Cats.

But living more than 3000km away, in the town of Ngukurr, an eight hour journey - mostly on unsealed road - from an airport, put the dream on the back bench.

It became even more of a fantasy when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage four years ago, paralysing the left side of her body.

Suffering bouts of depression, made more severe by the lack of NDIS services available to the 38-year-old mother of two, she decided to take a huge leap of faith and turn her dream into a reality.

"This is a story of how the NDIS can work for participants if you put the effort in," NDIS program manager for Sunrise Health Jane Bean said.

"The challenge is to make it work in the best way it can."

For Ms Robertson, that meant using funds from the health and well being component of her plan to see her team up close. 

In front of a crowd of 66,347, she had the honour of being part of the action, forming the Guard of Honour, as Geelong raced onto the field to take on the Hawks, last week.

 It was a nail biting game for Peatra Robertson, who was on the edge of her seat until the last minute. She said she was overjoyed her team came out on top, 17.11 (113) to 13.12 (90).

"It was a dream come true, seeing them up close and in action. It is so different to seeing them on TV," Ms Robertson said.

"I wanted to show other people in the community that a disability doesn't have to hold you back."

She said the experience took her breath away, and has set her in a new and positive direction. 

"Back home, growing up football orientated our community and I have always backed Geelong."

"To stand on the field was a life long dream."

But it was not an easy one to crack, getting to Melbourne was a culmination of tireless work from an array of people.

"NDIS is difficult to work in remote communities especially, because it is based on services available," Ms Bean said.

"For instance Peatra needed a speech therapist, but the closest one was in Darwin, (hundreds of kilometres away) and it just wasn't viable.

"Peatra's plan starts to pay for the service provider from the moment they leave their door, it becomes phenomenally expensive.

"She came to me and told me she wanted to meet her favourite team, and that meant liaising for weeks and weeks with the community liaison officer to work out all of the logistics, down to the very small details.

"The NDIS has terrible press right now, but we have seen it can work because Peatra made it work."

Now back in her small town where familiarity is comfort, Peatra is planning her next big adventure.

Having never seen the ocean before, she wants to swap out the dusty outback for sandy beaches and waves.

"I want to see a whale because they are amazing creatures."


"I wanted to show other people in the community that a disability doesn't have to hold you back."

— Peatra Robertson - NDIS recipient


2. Germs and hygiene


The population health team, along with primary health care staff, have recently been working with Families as First Teachers children and school aged children to educate them about the importance of hygiene and preventing sickness by handwashing.

The message has well and truly been demonstrated by showing the children the bacteria on their hands by placing their hands under a UV light - then having them wash their hands and showing under the UV light that the bacteria have been washed away.

Children have also been taught about how germs are spread. Clearly the message has been impactful as one child told a teacher to not touch their hand as they didn’t know where the teacher’s hands had been!

The children also didn’t want to touch any other people’s hands after they washed them as they didn’t want any germs transferred to them.

Not only will this simple education reduce the incidence of gastro-intestinal infection transmission but will also go a long way to reduce the spread of the devastating eye disease - trachoma.

One student told a teacher to not touch their hand as they didn’t know where the teacher’s hands had been.
— Cecilia Johns, Physical Activity Officer

3. University of Sydney students join dietitians


The Sunrise Health dietitian team have been joined by two dietitian students from the University of Sydney - Rachel Adam and Caitlin Edmonds - undertaking a six week remote placement as part of their degree.

This is the first time that students from the University of Sydney have undertaken a remote placement in the Katherine East region and will certainly give Rachel and Caitlin insight into the diverse places and roles that dietitians can work in.

While working in the Katherine East region, Rachel and Caitlin will be engaging with community members and stakeholders around their perceptions of healthy eating, barriers to healthy eating and possible community-led solutions for more healthier eating.

There has been much research in remote communities about the outcomes of non-healthy eating but very little research into the factors and perceptions that prevent healthy eating.

The students discussions with community will result in future programs that support community-led healthier eating.