Last month we celebrated National Volunteer Week!

Volunteering is built into the fabric of Purple House. 22 years ago, Western Desert ‘volunteers’ painted and auctioned their collaborative artworks to raise over a million dollars. That money started Purple House and developed a new model of care based around family, Country and compassion.

These days, volunteers contribute thousands of hours each year and support almost every aspect of the organisation – whether that be making cups of tea, washing dishes, sitting with patients, leading art projects, driving people back to Country, supporting the remote aged-care teams, running exercise programs or taking patients to the shops – their efforts help make Purple House what it is.

The volunteer coordinator works to incorporate Purple House’s strategic goals into all aspects of the volunteer program so that participants can learn how to engage in a culturally safe and ‘right way’.

“Purple House provided me with invaluable cultural education which has definitely made me more culturally sensitive and safe. During my time, I learnt so many important aspects such as the correct way to greet people, the difference between men and women’s business, and skin names.” – Past Volunteer Lucy Sherman

It is through the generosity of volunteers that Purple House can so effectively help patients live a good life. The skills, energy and contributions of our volunteers has a direct impact on staff, patients and their communities. “I learnt that here, the work you do has an immediate effect on those around you.” – Past Volunteer Minha Kook

The many medical students who volunteer at Purple House gain first-hand experience in a successful Indigenous-led model of care in a remote setting which they will carry with them throughout their career.

“They remind me that practicing medicine is not about ticking boxes and getting jobs done. Rather it is about getting to know the patients and their families, to care about their wellbeing and to take the time to listen to their life stories. I appreciate the important role that the Purple House staff play in making real connections with their patients and how they commit to making real and tangible improvements in their patient’s lives. The Purple House staff demonstrate all of the qualities of compassion, kindness, cultural sensitivity and strong work ethic that I aspire to when I go on to become a Doctor one day.” – Past Volunteer Lucy Sherman

The program is flexibly tailored to suit the interests and skills of participants. Volunteers are also given the opportunity to live and work in a remote community and get to know patients and their stories.

“At the Primary Healthcare Clinic last week, it was Kidney Week – they had pottery at the clinic for the clientele to start painting… I sat down with some of the clients and we all just sat there painting and laughing, they were teaching me language and they said ‘tell us things about California’ and it was just really nice to sit and be present and have a laugh together… [those moments] make it worth what I’m doing.” – Current Volunteer Sarah Brown (no, not our CEO)

Purple House’s innovation and good practice in volunteer management was recognised in 2019 when we received the Alice Springs Town Council Excellence in Volunteer Management Award and in 2022 when we won the Volunteering NT INPEX Community Volunteering Organisation/Team of the Year award!



“It’s good they can help us. They can learn more. We need more help. We need strong people coming to help.” – Patient Preceptor Selina Bob