Unity for the First People of Australia: one great success story

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One of our great success stories is UFPA.  Speaking to its founder, Ernie Bridge, recently he said that the first cheque they ever received was $12,000 from BrightSpark Foundation back in 2002. This was at a time when no other funding was available.  Ernie passionately believed that diabetes in the Aboriginal community was rife and growing at an alarming rate. While diabetes was being medically treated, he felt no attempt was being placed on early intervention and prevention. He felt greater emphasis was needing on lifestyle changes.


“Type 2 diabetes is always preventable,” says Ernie and he decided to do something about it.


He approached BrightSpark for funding to establish a Diabetes Management and Care Program to assist Aboriginal people with a propensity to diabetes. Standing personal surety and armed with the BrightSpark cheque, the UFPA's Diabetes Management and Care Program was born.


Ernie's vision was to provide diabetes awareness, education and training to mothers with young children and expectant mothers with a view to enhancing their health situation and to try to improve the control and extent of subsequent incident of diabetes. He said the worry some Aboriginal people had with Type 2 diabetes was to liken it with leprosy. Education and communication was a key element of the program.
With the BrightSpark seed funding the pilot program was launched in the Nookanbah community of approximately 250 people (80 of whom were children). This community, which is between Fitzroy Crossing and Derby, had a serious problem with the disease running at over 50% of the community’s population.

Initially the aim was to increase sporting activity, explain the causes of diabetes, change eating habits with a strong focus on influencing the type of foods sold at the local stores like Coke and fatty foods, and to establish a management and care program.


The program has been an outstanding success since inception.


Today the UFPA has grown into a strong, focused and determined group. Their “Roadmap Towards Better Health Program” is an opportunity for Indigenous people and communities to engage with the “big picture” of Indigenous health. It encourages Indigenous community people themselves to take on the responsibility for their future health.


The intervention and prevention approach includes a Wellness Program that has the following components:

  • Building Blocks for Health
  • Training of local carers
  • Diabetes education (one to one)
  • Nutrition/Dietary Program
  • Health information sessions
  • Breakfast Program in schools (Foodbank WA)
  • Edible Garden program (EIN Foundation)
  • Elders Program
  • Linking in with other Primary Health Providers
  • Happy Family Program
  • Dental care
  • Eye Assessments
  • Community based Health Assessments
  • Community profile database
  • Motivation Workshop

The BrightSpark Foundation is excited and inspired by what the UFPA has achieved.  They are one of our many success stories:  Ernie's "spark" of an idea combined with our resources, has now grown into a program that has significantly improved the health and wellbeing of many WA children.


We wish them continued success in the future.