A positive step for Aboriginal health

Michelle Torrens (pictured here with her sister-in-law Margaret Torrens and mother-in-law Phyllis Torrens) is encouraging people to join her and sister Patsy Nagas on their Walk for Life on December 9. Photo courtesy of Southern Cross University.

Bundjalung sisters Michelle Torrens and Patsy Nagas were born Walkers.

Given their maiden name, its fitting the siblings have created the Walk for Life, a two day hike from Kyogle to Casino to speak up loud about four killer diseases that are rife in the Aboriginal community: cancer, kidney disease, heart diseases and diabetes.

On Saturday, December 9, the sisters are inviting the whole community to walk beside them in a declaration of hope for all Aboriginal people and send a message encouraging Bundjalung people and health professionals to work together for disease prevention.

Michelle said the issue concerns the whole community and is extending an open invitation for anyone to join the 40 walkers already signed up.

Its not just for Aboriginal people it doesnt matter what colour or size you are, said Michelle.

Michelle and Patsy conceived the walk idea after they were both rocked by health scares this year.

Michelle, 44, is currently in remission from cancer.

In March she was rushed to hospital with severe abdominal pain where an operation revealed she had an ovarian tumour the size of a watermelon.

Patsy, a 49-year-old Kyogle councillor, has just been diagnosed with the final stages of renal failure and will go on dialysis next year.

Both Michelle and Patsys experiences sent shock waves through their family, which has now been hit by all four of the killers.

Their parents had diabetes and heart disease while Michelles husband is a dialysis patient.

You think its never going to happen to you but the reality is every Aboriginal family in the Bundjalung area is affected by one of those four diseases, said Michelle.

Michelle said educating both Aboriginal people and health professionals is a key factor in preventing the diseases.

The walk will highlight the importance of good diet and exercise, encouraging Aboriginal people to better utilise health services while asking health professionals to ensure their services are culturally appropriate.

She said the community has been supportive, with community groups, local health services and local businesses pledging time, skills and resources.

The Casino Aboriginal Medical service has been particularly helpful and will provide simple medical services such as blood pressure tests and written medical reports for walk participants on the day.

However, more donations are required to make the day a success.

In particular, Michelle would like to see 40 T-shirts, in four colours to represent each of the diseases, screen printed for walkers to wear on the day. $250 is needed to purchase the materials plus volunteers to do the screen printing. The Echo has already donated $50 and is encouraging other businesses to do the same.

If youd like to attend the Walk for Life, volunteer your time or make a donation phone Michelle on 6667 3358 or email

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