Fighting Rheumatic Heart Disease

Red Dust and Mamanta piloted a new Healthy Living Program education module on Tiwi Country, to raise awareness of rheumatic heart disease.

The Red Dust pilot program:

Red Dust together with our local partner Mamanta, developed a pilot of play-based next-generation education modules, for the Red Dust Healthy Living Program.  

The pilot program, co-designed with Tiwi owned consultancy Mamanta , ensured local and cultural relevance. With a specific focus on Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD), the program aimed to educate and empower young people to maintain a healthy heart and protect themselves from the impacts of RHD.  

Embedded within the local school holiday program and with support from Catholic Care, the team produced three one day sessions, commencing in the community of Milikapati before heading to Pirlimgimpi, and Wurrumiyanga. The program incorporated a wide range of engaging and interactive play-based learning activities, diving deep into the topic of healthy hearts and RHD.  

Some of the most popular play-based activities with the kids included...

  • Making sense of blood and the circulatory system by painting the intricate network of veins that transport blood around the body on a life-sized body map. Registered nurses explained the dynamics of blood flow and educated the kids about the difference between red and white blood cells. Local facilitators and project team were available to help interpret into Tiwi language when required. Although activities were aimed at younger children, throughout the day older siblings and family members got involved, supporting the learning of younger ones while also learning a few things themselves!  
  • Painting exercises that gave the kids a chance to express what it means to be fit and healthy.
  • Exploring what can be done to keep our hearts strong – pupuni ruwuti across healthy lifestyles, treatments and supporting and caring for ourselves and each other through a highly visual and interactive target practice game.  

The pilot of this next-generation education module will help inform the ongoing development of additional modules on a range of other health and well-being topics that are locally and culturally relevant for more remote communities.

What is rheumatic heart disease?

Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is linked to valve damage in the heart and can occur after an episode of acute rheumatic fever. However, it is more commonly associated with repeated episodes.

Despite RHD being both preventable and life-threatening, Australia experiences some of the highest rates worldwide. Over 5,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals are affected by either RHD or its precursor, Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF).

For more information on rheumatic heart disease, watch our video:  

Ways to prevent rheumatic heart disease:

During the program young people explored ways to prevent and treat RHD which included the key themes prioritised by the End Rheumatic Heart Disease Centre of Research Excellence, Key themes included:

  1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership
  1. Community based programs  
  1. Healthy environments  
  1. Early prevention
  1. Care and support  

Here’s what the young people across Tiwi Country learned:



Thank you to the following local community partners and collaborators:

Thank you to our program funding partners:

Additional Thanks to supporting agencies that offered support, information and resources:

  • The Heart Foundation  
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia  
  • Menzies School of Health Research

A big thanks to the project team – Joel Moreta, Leigh Bramall, Sharon Burns, RiverBramall & Shia Cooper

.. and all those awesome young people and their families who took part!