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Cliff doesn’t let diabetes stop him from enjoying life

by Rhonda Hagan Q&A with Cliff Appo from Bundaberg, Qld. Where were you born? I was born at Apple Tree Creek, about 50 kilometres outside of Bundaberg 80 years ago. I was born in the bush. My

granny was my nurse. We were reared up there and went to school. We worked there for white fellas for 5 bob a day cutting cane. Alot of other people went through the same thing. I didn’t get to high school. I had to leave school in grade 4 and went to work.

Mum died when I was six and dad worked hard to keep us four children together. When I was was 13 I went off to work. What did you like about school? I loved school. I like everything about school. If I could have I would have gone right through Page 1


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Cliff Appo with brothers Merv, left, and Colin Johnson at a recent Gidarjil Sovereignty Forum in Bundaberg. Image Rhonda Hagan

but we didn’t get the chance. All us black kids who showed a bit of promise, we were put down all the time. What career did you take up after school? I did labouring, canecutting, stockwork, station droving, mill work. Canecutting was the main job where we earnt alot more money. We made good money from that and I always owned my own home. Did you have a family of your own? I got married to a lovely woman from Childers and together we had four boys. We brought them up in Childers then we moved to Bundaberg in 1970. That’s where I broke down and had to go on a pension. I had a few surgeries, the first was a spinal fusion in 1973, then two lots of open heart surgery in 1983 and again in 1995. What was your relationship with the Catholic Church? I was on the national body of the National Aboriginal and Islanders Catholic Council. I was on that committee for seven years and then I gave it away but I’m still connected with the Catholic Page 2

Council. We did a few trips to New Zealand and their representatives came out here and spent time with us. The national body was really great. When were you diagnosed with kidney disease? This is my 11th year. I was very sick and I faded away to a shadow and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. When they did find out they took me to the hospital and told me that I’d be alright once I was on dialysis. I thought they just told me that so I could die happy. Once they got the fistula in to the arm, and I started having dialysis, after a month, food was starting to come good and I was starting to feel good. I just went forward after that. You’re travelling overseas soon, so how do you manage with your regular dialysis treatments while you’re away? There is a group in Adelaide called Dialysis Abroad. There are two people who run it who have had kidney transplants. They arrange all the holidays, they go over and look at clinics and arrange for us to have dialysis in clinics

overseas. The first place I went to was in Bali. I had to pay $200 per treatment. I didn’t mind that because if you want to go you have to pay. My next one was in Italy and we had reciprocal arrangement with Australia so we didn’t have to pay. A couple of years ago I went to Kuala Lumpur and had to pay there. I’m heading to Brunei next and will have to pay while I’m there. How do you like life now? I don’t want to sit down and die. While I’m able to do things I’m doing it. Nearly every year I go to visit my grandson in Adelaide. My hospital make contact with the contact in Adelaide. Life’s been pretty good to me, although I’ve had my ups and downs. What is your message to others who are undergoing treatment and want to do more? Don’t sit around at home thinking you’re sick and can’t do this or that. You don’t know what you can do until you try. Once you start doing things you feel a hell of a lot better and you’ll just go forward.

Don't let diabetes stop you from enjoying life  

You don’t know what you can do until you try. Once you start doing things you feel a hell of a lot better and you’ll just go forward.

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