Punmu & Parnngurr Aboriginal Health Clinics

Kaunitz Yeung Architecture

This project comprises two primary health clinics in the Martu Aboriginal communities for Punmu and Parnngurr. The communities are respectively 600km and 400km from the nearest town, and 1,800km and 1,300km from Perth. Martu were some of the last Aboriginal people to have contact with non-Aboriginal people and are some of the most traditional communities in Australia, resulting in a close connection to culture and country.

The client, Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS), is a community-run health organisation with a local Aboriginal board, and is the sole provider of health services to the communities. As such, PAMS and the clinics are important elements of self-determination that support Martu to stay on country. Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services are important for addressing the significant health and social issues that disproportionately affect Aboriginal people.

This project places community at the centre of health delivery while providing modern facilities and additional clinical space focused on the acute health issues of the community. The aim is increasing presentation rates to improve preventative health. The buildings create provision for visiting specialists and allied health professionals, and also provide a community waiting/multipurpose space, emergency, treatment, staff, clean and dirty utility rooms and dialysis. The buildings cost AU$2 million each.

Meaningful engagement with the community facilitated cultural appropriateness in the design and engendered ownership of the buildings. In doing so, the clinics reflect the community model of care, placing health and wellness at the centre of community. In interpreting the brief, the design integrated culture to create a connection to community and harnessed prefabrication to provide high quality clinical space in the remotest of locations. The modular nature enables future internal reconfiguration of rooms and the addition of modules. The waiting rooms were designed as flexible community spaces. Robust and low-maintenance materials and finishes were selected.

The art screens by community artists have imbued a sense of pride in the communities. Internally they layer the light-filled corridors and waiting room while providing privacy and security. At night they serve as a beacon facing into the communities. They enable the buildings to pay respect to elders, artists and culture, enriching the community.

Photography: Brett Boardman.