Puggy Hunter was the driving force behind the push for kidney dialysis services in the Kimberley region. Always a clear thinker and passionate advocate, he saw the misery of Kimberley Aboriginal people stranded in Perth on dialysis treatment, lonely, lost and homesick. As always, his colourful use of language helped make the plight of those in the Autumn Centre hostel real to others. "You go and drive past – they're like crows on a fence down there on Guildford Road" he would say.
Starting from meetings in 1995 with Dr Mark Thomas from the Royal Perth Hospital, Puggy pressed for a satellite dialysis unit for the Kimberley. This would be the 'hub' that would provide dialysis services to people locally, as well as support those able to manage home dialysis in their own communities (the 'spokes').
When the state government indicated that it was planning to commit resources for regional dialysis, it was Puggy who, by negotiating matched Commonwealth government funding, managed to ensure that the Kimberley unit would be a fully functioning community based unit – not only with nurses and machines, but with transport, Aboriginal Health Worker support and accommodation. He put in extraordinary efforts to ensure that the Aboriginal community got a say – through participation in regional Aboriginal health planning, Norhealth 2020 planning, a regional dialysis summit, by lobbying members of parliament, and tirelessly working with specialists, Royal Perth Hospital management and government bureaucrats.
But he never forgot the people on Guildford road in Perth. On the Friday before he passed on, Puggy sat with the dialysis patients at the Autumn Centre (as he had done so often) and made sure they knew what was happening. He had ensured that the Guildford road mob not only understood and were given hope, but that they were able to have a say in the Kimberley dialysis unit design, into the artwork and into the vision.
Sadly Puggy did not live to see his vision in bricks and mortar – but he knew what had been achieved. His commitment and dedication was finally realised with the opening of the Kimberley Satellite Dialysis Centre on 21st October 2002.
by Dr Richard Murray