A man, a woman and a child at the edge of a rich country



The fate of Sheila Major and Stanley Roberts, and their daughter Rickisha, fits neatly into the litany of horror stories about public spending by the NT Government which, per head of population, gets twice as much the GST share from Canberra than the rest of the nation.

Ms Major was diagnosed with kidney failure in October last year, requiring dialysis three times a week.

The couple lives in Papunya where Mr Roberts is a pastor of the Lutheran Church. They have two sons and Rickisha, aged 12.

The Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation Inc, better known as Purple House, provides a limited dialysis service at Papunya but there is a long waiting list.

As shuttling three times a week between the community and Alice Springs – 250 kms one-way – isn’t feasible, the couple has to live in Alice Springs until Ms Major’s turn comes to get dialysis in Papunya.

Rickisha has a disability. The couple, of course, wants the girl to be with them, but this is where the trouble starts.

Finding accommodation suitable for a child requiring major care is enormously difficult, says the couple.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is providing funds for a case worker for limited hours, between 50 or 100 hours a year.

But what is the NT Government doing for the family? Not much.

The waiting list for public housing in Alice Springs, in all categories, is six to eight years.

Almost daily the family has to move between hostels, friends’ homes or houses available for public purposes, always depending on availability, and usually for a very short period.

We asked Families Minister Kate Worden this morning what, if anything, she is going to do for the couple.

We also invited the Disability Advocacy Service in Alice Springs to comment.

We will report any responses from both of them if and when they are provided.



  1. NDIS is failing people with disabilities. Why are there so many houses in Alice Springs standing empty. In Gillen alone I walk past at least 10 houses, well maintained and have been empty for at least over a year. Can’t the NDIS, or providers lease some of these dwellings in order to alleviate people’s suffering?

  2. @ Ted Egan. The ‘Australian Government Aboriginal Hostels Limited’ website lists 43 hostels, including Alice Springs.
    The last time I had anything to do with them, they were a very useful organisation for the people I was working with.
    I’m not sure how they are surviving the present situation in Alice, but they are Federally funded.

  3. Five hostels listed in Alice Springs on the website you mentioned Russel Guy, including Topsy Smith, classed a renal facility. Perhaps already full? Or not able to cater for families?

  4. Re: Aboriginal Hostels. The options aren’t as fruitful as you may think.
    Stuart Lodge, Visitors Park and Ayipirinya are the only options.
    These hostel’s are always full, people have to call up every morning to hope they catch a room just after someone has checked out.
    People also have to pay upfront until their Centrepay deductions begin. This can be a massive barrier and financial burden for people who are living below the poverty line on Centrelink benefits. For some it is near impossible without brokerage support from services. These hostels are not custom made for people with a disability like Rikisha, as the article mentioned, which creates another difficulty.
    The hundreds of homeless people in town aren’t just passing up on the option of a hostel for fun – often there is no room and they aren’t as accessible and user-friendly as you would think.
    Housing is a MASSIVE problem in this town, we shouldn’t be blaming the oppressed for the government’s systemic failures.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here