MJD Foundation

Elcho Aircraft Wheelchair Lift

10 organisations get the wheels in motion for Elcho Island

The MJD Foundation, partnered with Marthakal Homelands, launched the new Aircraft Wheelchair Lift at Galiwin'ku Airport, Elcho Island, in late February 2012.

The Community Launch, with over 100 community members in attendance, was a celebration and recognition of the generous donors and contributors to the project. It was also a reminder of how devastating the impact Machado Joseph Disease (MJD) will be on the community in the next five to ten years when the MJD Foundation expects increases in wheelchair use by Elcho Island residents.

People living with MJD are highly dependent and require regular medical assessment and treatment in Darwin and Gove. Before, if an airline chooses to accommodate a disabled passenger, without an aircraft wheelchair lift in place, that person needs to be able to weight bear and their carer/s need to carry the person manually up the aircraft's stairs - posing significant physical risks to both people, and having the individual feel shamed because of the indignity of the situation.

The lift has only been made possible by ten local and national organisations coming together with financial and in-kind support.

"To have so much support for this project has been overwhelming. All up 6 financial donors and 4 in-kind sponsors from around Australia have come together to make this project happen," said MJD Foundation's Executive Officer, Ms Nadia Lindop.  "After the success of the Groote Eylandt aircraft lift and having worked closely with a Geneticist to develop prediction rates of Machado Joseph Disease on Elcho Island in the next five years, we knew this project was an urgent priority for us to support the community and their infrastructure for the future" continued Ms Lindop.

The MJD Foundation, which is based on Groote Eylandt 250 kilometres away, is starting to work with the Elcho Island community to develop and implement appropriate services for people with MJD.

The MJD Foundation's Director, Research and Community Services, Libby Massey said "Since establishing the Foundation in 2008, we have identified other NT communities with significant number of people at risk of MJD, including Elcho Island."

"We are now starting to build the relationship with the Galiwin'ku community of Elcho Island, increase their understanding of MJD and work with families to determine the types of supports and services they require".

"We are fortunate to have the continuing support of the East Arnhem Shire Council and their Aged Care and Disability Service at Galiwin'ku, along with the Miwatj and Marthakal Health Clinics who are essential to building relationships within the community. Hopefully, this community event also raised the awareness of MJD" she said.

Gayangwa Lalara, Groote Eylandt Elder and Vice-Chairperson of the MJD Foundation, shared her story at the Elcho Island launch. Telling her first hand experiences of MJD on Groote Eylandt will help to alleviating the shame and blame associated with MJD among Indigenous Australians in North East Arnhem Land.

The generous donation of the Arnhem Land Progress Corporation (ALPA), who runs the local community store at Galiwin'ku, has been complemented with funding from the following philanthropic organisations - Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, Marian and E.H. Flack Trust, Mercy Foundation, Ross Divett Foundation and the Darwin International Airport Corporate Giving Fund.



Ross DivettALPAMarion EH Flack TrustAMS

Mercy FoundationFRRRDarwin Airport