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27 Apr 2018

It’s Monday afternoon, and the newly opened palliative care unit at Alice Springs Hospital gets a call. A patient will be coming in within days from Utopia, a remote region in the Northern Territory. And all that matters to him is that he can cook kangaroo tail.

Hospital Manager, Naomi Heinrich, explains how the unit copes.

“Obviously, we can’t use the hospital kitchen,” she says. “So we’ve found a space next to the neighbour’s fence” - she winks – “and we’ve set up a barbecue.”

Roo tail, and its importance both nutritionally and culturally, features heavily in the Northern Territory. As does the emphasis on providing culturally safe and appropriate health care for the Aboriginal population.

At the Urapuntja Health Clinic in Utopia, 350km north-east of Alice, the Women’s Shed has roo tail recipes on its walls. The women and girls - from the 16 outstations spread over 3,500 square kilometres - learn new ways to make use of the budget-friendly lean protein, high in iron and low in fat.

“We do some really good stuff with kangaroo tails,” acting CEO Amanda Hand says.

No-one involved with cooking roo tail pretends it’s not confronting for the uninitiated.

“It has a very strong smell, and you end up covered in burnt hairs. It’s not pretty,” Purple House CEO Sarah Brown says.

Aboriginal dialysis patients from across the Territory visit Purple House in Alice Springs six days a week. And almost every day, American tourists visit. For $10, they get a tour, a history of Purple House, and an insight into life in Central Australia. And, sometimes, a perhaps dodgy account of marsupial life.

“Sometimes, we have people here cooking damper, and sometimes cooking kangaroo tail,” Ms Brown says.

“The first couple of times, we had tourists asking how long it took for the tails to grow back. We were a bit surprised at first, and just said: ‘They don’t grow back.’ The Americans said, ‘But how do they balance without their tails?’ They were so shocked when we said the kangaroos were dead.

“Now, we just say, they grow back after two to three weeks.”



Published: 27 Apr 2018