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Improving Indigenous Health

A new Rotary Indigenous Health initiative in partnership with inspirational indigenous community leaders

Rob De Castella and Chris Edwards

Indigenous Health Done Differently

Rotary and the Indigenous Marathon Foundation working together.

Working with Rotary around Australia and the region, this new initiative supports Indigenous Marathon Prpject graduates across Australia to positively affect the health and wellbeing of their communities.

IMF graduates and RAW communities will identify and drive community health projects in their local area. Selected projects will be supported by the volunteers and resources of the Rotary clubs but led by local Indigenous Leaders.

Operational procedures are currently under development, and initial projects are open for consideration.

The Need to Improve Indigenous Health

Indigenous Australians have disproportionally poor health outcomes, including heart disease, Type II diabetes, renal failure, cancer, and other lifestyle related chronic disease.

Too often programs and activities are ‘imposed’ on Indigenous communities, with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Partnering with the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, Rotary District 9705 aims to help drive community health changes from within our Indigenous populations.

Supporting Blue R-IHP Logo


The Indigenous Marathon Foundation has a significant ‘footprint’ across Australia, with several hundred health-leaders and supporters who have shown significant leadership, courage, determination and commitment, and who hold positions of significance in their families and communities.

Meet Some of the IMF Health Leaders

The Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF), currently have 122 graduates in over 60 Indigenous communities around Australia. Such as ‘deadly ninja’ Jack Wilson, (IMP Graduate #22).

Jack Wilson became a household inspiration, following seasons one and two of the hit Channel 9 game show, Ninja Warrior.

Jack has always been fit and healthy, but the national profile from Ninja Warrior provided him with an opportunity to take his message to small regional and remote communities. He fitted out a bus and began travelling across NSW and QLD visiting dozens of primary schools, talking about the importance of keeping physically active, not smoking, and eating healthy foods.

Painted up and in his famous budgie smugglers, Jack was like the Indigenous ‘pied piper’, with hundreds of children following him around, hanging off his every word, and wanting to be little deadly ninja warriors.

Jack Wilson

Above: IMP Graduate #22, Jack Wilson, travels to remote schools educating children on the the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.

Above: IMP Graduate #55, Zibeon Fielding cycled 700km across APY Lands to raise funds for a community gym to be built in a refurbished container in Mimili.

Bush to the Beach Program

After graduating from the Indigenous Marathon Project over a decade ago, Charlie Maher established the ‘Bush to Beach’ program which shares culture, experiences, mentoring and leadership with children in the Port Macquarie and Ntaria communities.

This program provides an opportunity to learn and share culture, experiences and stories whilst working towards creating positive change and improving the lives of participants. The Bus to Beach program delivers significant mental and physical health outcomes and helps support young Indigenous boys and girls to learn to live in both worlds (Indigenous and non-Indigenous).

A Champion for Indigenous Health

Charlie Maher, IMP Graduate #1 of the Indigenous Marathon Project founded the Port Macquarie IMF RAW (Running And Walking group). The RAW program is now operating in 40+ Indidgenous communities across the country.

Charlie and Ntaria kids

Western Desert Dialysis – The Purple House

In 2018, IMP Graduate #55, Zibeon Fielding undertook an ultra 63km desert run from his remote community of Mimili to Indulkana raising $50,000 for The Purple House – Western Desert Dialysis.

He was concerned about the fact that there was no dialysis facility on the remote APY Lands, despite significant numbers of locals suffering from renal failure. Many were reluctant to relocate away from their families and traditional lands to Alice Springs or Adelaide, so passed away prematurely.

Zibeon is a health worker and currently studying medicine with IMF’s support.


Thursday Island Fitness Group

IMP Graduate #34, Harold Matthews completed the IMP in 2014 and has continued to be a leader and health advocate for his small community on Thursday Island.

He is particularly passionate about supporting and addressing Island men’s health.

Island men struggle with weight and have a high incidence of chronic disease but are reluctant to engage in health programs.

Harold started a twice-weekly training session for local men, and it has been very successful with numbers growing and regularly participating. It includes hill repetitions, boxing and running/walking.

What is an IMP Graduate?

The IMP is an intensive life-changing program run by the Indigenous Marathon Foundadion, providing participants with education qualifications, skills & experience delivering positive health outcomes for themselves, their families, and communities while training to run the New York City Marathon in six months.

Currently, IMF has had 122 Graduates in communities throughout Australia. These IMP Graduates continue to be supported by IMF to drive positive change.

In completing their IMP training, the 18-30-year-old participants, have demonstrated significant leadership, courage, determination, and commitment, and have also been elevated in their families, friends and community, to a position of significance. This makes them ready to take a lead role in addressing Indigenous health and social issues.

Over and above the run coaching that the squad members undertake during their IMP year, they also complete a Cert IV in Indigenous Leadership and Health Promotion, a Level 1 Run Coach accreditation, Sports First Aid & CPR certification, and Indigenous Mental Health First Aid qualification.

The IMP program, therefore, equips these Graduates with the tools, vision, profile and passion to design and deliver community-based programs with definite health outcomes, with running, walking, social connection and physical activity at its core.

Thursday Island training group

Above: Some of the men and women in Harold’s Thursday Island fitness group. 

Harold Matthew
APW-IMF logo lockup

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