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Gurrumul Yunupingu Is Demanding An Apology After Being "Racially Profiled" In A NT Hospital

The singer wants to ensure it never happens again.

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Gurrumul Yunupingu, Australia's most famous Indigenous singer, wants a formal apology from the Royal Darwin Hospital after being left to bleed internally for 15 hours last week.

Yunupingu, who doesn't give interviews, has given his manager Mark Grose permission to talk to BuzzFeed News on his behalf The Yolngu singer hopes his near death experience will stimulate conversation about racial profiling in the health system. "He almost died and what really upset him is that he went into the hospital knowing what needed to happen and then he ended up unconscious in ICU because it didn’t happen quickly enough," Grose says. "Gurrumul says that this is not about him, this is about no one else having to go through this again".
Mark Grose.

Yunupingu, who doesn't give interviews, has given his manager Mark Grose permission to talk to BuzzFeed News on his behalf

The Yolngu singer hopes his near death experience will stimulate conversation about racial profiling in the health system.

"He almost died and what really upset him is that he went into the hospital knowing what needed to happen and then he ended up unconscious in ICU because it didn’t happen quickly enough," Grose says.

"Gurrumul says that this is not about him, this is about no one else having to go through this again".

Yunupingu, who has battled with Hepatitis B since he was a child, was admitted to Royal Darwin Hospital last week due to problems with his liver disease.

After being assessed by A&E Yunypingu was sent to the unit responsible for emergency surgery. Instead of prompt treatment, Yunupingu spent 15 hours waiting for help. When he did receive treatment he had been vomiting blood, bleeding internally and close to death. Grose says that Yunupingu was racially profiled and written off as an alcoholic by staff members at the hospital. He claims that none of this would have occurred if Yunupingu was white. Following the incident, parts of Yunupingu's medical file were released to the ABC and revealed that health staff had written down that his liver problems were alcohol related, despite them actually being caused by Hepatitis B, which he contracted as a child. "There's only two conclusions I can draw as far as I am concerned as to why an Indigenous person was left for 15 hours before any surgery happened, the only conclusion I can come up with is racial profiling or incompetence. I am happy to be proven wrong," Grose says.
Ros O'gorman / NOISE11

After being assessed by A&E Yunypingu was sent to the unit responsible for emergency surgery. Instead of prompt treatment, Yunupingu spent 15 hours waiting for help.

When he did receive treatment he had been vomiting blood, bleeding internally and close to death.

Grose says that Yunupingu was racially profiled and written off as an alcoholic by staff members at the hospital. He claims that none of this would have occurred if Yunupingu was white.

Following the incident, parts of Yunupingu's medical file were released to the ABC and revealed that health staff had written down that his liver problems were alcohol related, despite them actually being caused by Hepatitis B, which he contracted as a child.

"There's only two conclusions I can draw as far as I am concerned as to why an Indigenous person was left for 15 hours before any surgery happened, the only conclusion I can come up with is racial profiling or incompetence. I am happy to be proven wrong," Grose says.

Those allegations have been refuted by the NT minister for health John Elferink. He refused requests for an investigation into the incident and controversially said that the claims of racial profiling were a publicity stunt to sell more albums.

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The views of Elferink put him at odds with the federal minister for Indigenous affairs Nigel Scullion who has requested a report into the incident.

"We need to ensure he was treated in the way that everyone else would be treated," Scullion told ABC Radio last week.

Grose is skeptical about the report, telling BuzzFeed News that he wrote to Scullion imploring him to speak with people independent of the hospital.

"I'm assuming that the Indigenous affairs minister wants a report from the hospital, which is essentially getting a report from the people who said that there was nothing wrong," Grose says.

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"I had sent a message to senator Scullion saying in your report please talk to Dr. Lawton, who is Gurrumul's doctor, and Michelle Dowden, his private nurse, who has helped him navigate the health system for the past 5-6 years".

Grose also says that Elferink has asked for a private meeting with Yunupingu, but the singer has declined the invitation.

Yunupingu is now waiting for the findings of an investigation by the Health Complaints Commission, an independent body that deals with complaints about health service providers.

"Because no-one knew who Gurrumul was, what you've seen is a really clear picture of what happens to the everyday ordinary punter off the street that goes into that system and has some assumptions made about them," Grose says.

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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