The death rates from kidney disease are eight to 10 times higher among Indigenous Australians than other Australians. Indigenous Australians are also 14 times more likely to need in-hospital care for kidney dialysis.

Kidney disease has huge impacts on patients and their families, and for the majority of people, severe kidney disease can be prevented.

From past research we know that kidney disease is strongly linked to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. To tackle and lessen the burden of chronic kidney disease in Indigenous Australians, we need to understand the factors that predict its progression to the point where dialysis or a transplant is required.

Our research focus:
  • To discover the best ways to diagnose, treat and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease.
  • To investigate lifestyle-related chronic disease, largely in Indigenous populations, to contribute evidence to build positive models of health.
Our research impact:
  • In 2003, we showed that Indigenous patients received kidney transplants at approximately one quarter the rate of non-Indigenous patients, despite having much higher rates of kidney disease.
  • The research also found Indigenous patients faced barriers to get onto waiting lists and to move from waiting lists to receiving a transplant. This was highly significant since compared to long-term dialysis, transplantation usually results in a better quality of life, increased life expectancy and a lower cost to the health care system.
  • We demonstrated that pervasive miscommunication between healthcare providers and Indigenous patients with kidney disease fundamentally affects their health outcomes.
  • Our research validated the use amongst Indigenous Australians of a formula to estimate kidney function from a simple blood test.
Key staff:
Collaborators:
  • AMSANT
  • Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation
  • ANZDATA
  • Barefoot Films
  • Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc.
  • Central Australian Renal Voice
  • Danila Dilba Health Service
  • Ernst & Young
  • Feral Films
  • Katherine West Health Board Aboriginal Corporation
  • Melbourne Health
  • Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation
  • Morgan Family, Wyndham WA
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
  • Northern Territory Primary Health Network
  • NT Attorney-General Department - Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • NT Department of Education
  • NT Department of Health
  • NT Department of Housing
  • NT Renal Services
  • Renal Advocacy Advisory Committee
  • Sunrise Health Aboriginal Corporation
  • Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku
  • Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Clinic
Current projects:
Recently completed projects:
  1. Reilly, R., Evans, K.m, Gomersall, J., Gorham, G., Peters, M., Warren, S., et al. (2016). Effectiveness, cost effectiveness, acceptability and implementation barriers/enablers of chronic kidney disease management programs for Indigenous people in Australia, New Zealand and Canada: a systematic review of mixed evidence. BMC Health Services Research, 16, 119.
  2. Gorham, G., Cass, A., Howard K., & Evans, K. Central Australia Renal Study: Technical Report Update. Report prepared by Menzies School of Health Research for the Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra 2016.
  3. Maple-Brown, L.J., Ekinci, E.I., Hughes, J.T., Chatfield, M., Lawton, P.D., Jones, G.R.D., et al. (2014). Performance of formulas for estimating glomerular filtration rate in Indigenous Australians with and without Type 2 diabetes: the eGFR Study. Diabetic Medicine, 31(7), 829-38. doi:10.1111/dme.12426
  4. Maple-Brown, L.J., Hughes, J.T., Lawton, P.D., Jones, G.R., Ellis, A.G., Drabsch, K., et al. (2012). Accurate Assessment of Kidney Function in Indigenous Australians: the Estimated GFR Study. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 60(4), 680-2.
  5. Maple-Brown, L.J., Cunningham, J., Hodge, A.M., Weeramanthri, T., Dunbar, T., Lawton, P., et al. (2011). High rates of albuminuria but not of low eGFR in Urban Indigenous Australians: the DRUID Study. BMC Public Health,11 (346).
  6. Hughes, J., Nickels, M., Sharma, S., Tucker, L., O’Dea, K., & Maple-Brown, L. (2010). Implementing the eGFR study in a remote site: a case study. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 34(2), 6-8.
  7. Maple-Brown, L., Lawton, P., Hughes, J., Sharma, S.K., Jones, G., Ellis, A., Hoy, W., Cass, A., et al. (2010). Study Protocol - Accurate assessment of kidney function in Indigenous Australians: aims and methods of the eGFR Study. BMC Public Health, 10(80).
  8. Barraclough KA, Grace BS, Lawton P, McDonald SP.  (2016) Residential Location and Kidney Transplant Outcomes in Indigenous Compared With Nonindigenous Australians.  Transplantation.  2016 October; 100(10):2168-2176 doi:10.1097/TP.0000000000001007.
  9. ZhO y, Condon J, Lawton P, He V, Cadhilhac DA. Lifetime direct costs of stroke for Indigenous patients adjusted for comorbidities.  Neurology. 2016 Aug 2;87(5):458-65. Doi 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002908
  10. Askew DA*, Togni SJ*, Schluter PJ*, Rogers L, Egert S, Potter N, Hayman NE, Cass A, Brown ADH. (2016) Investigating the feasibility, acceptability and appropriateness of outreach case management in an urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care service: a mixed methods study, BMC Health Services Research, 16 (178):1-14,doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1428-0, http://old.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/16/178
  11. Davy J, DeVries J, Fewquandie B, Ingram S, Mentha R, Simon P, Rickards B, Togni S, Liu H, Periris D, Askew D, Kite E, Sivak L, Hackett M, Lavoie J & Brown A. (2016) Facilitating engagement through strong relationships between primary healthcare and Aboriiginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ANZJ Public Health; Online early view; doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12553
Click here to view more kidney publications in PubMed.
  1. “Polycystic kidney disease, the most common genetic kidney disorder you've probably never heard of”

    “Polycystic kidney disease, the most common genetic kidney disorder you've probably never heard of”

    Date

    Autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the most common genetic kidney disorder, and the fourth most common cause of kidney failure in Australian adults. It affects about one in 1,000 Australians.

  2. $440 million funding boost for vital health and medical research for all stages of life

    $440 million funding boost for vital health and medical research for all stages of life

    Date

    $6 million in research funding for three Indigenous health grants in the Northern Territory. This includes $2.5 million for an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence at the Menzies School of Health Research to prevent and manage bronchiectasis, a lung disease which results in recurrent chest infections and is particularly common in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

  3. Senator reveals personal story of kidney disease

    Senator reveals personal story of kidney disease

    Date

    Nephrologist at the Menzies School of Health Research, Paul Lawton, said his research team had been investigating key causes that dramatically impact upon remote Aboriginal communities.

  4. Curious Kids: why is urine yellow?

    Curious Kids: why is urine yellow?

    Date

    Dr Jaqui Hughes answers The Conversation's Curious Kids question explaining the functions of the kidney.

  5. Sunday Territorian | Gift of life

    Sunday Territorian | Gift of life

    Date

    Senator Malarndirri McCarthy discusses her kidney diseaese and treatment by Dr Paul Lawton

  6. The Health Advocate Episode 11 - Renal Patients in Remote Communities

    The Health Advocate Episode 11 - Renal Patients in Remote Communities

    Date

    AHHA's Director of the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research, Rebecca Haddock, sits down with Stephanie Pushka.

  7. This Dialysis Patient From A Remote Community Has Spent Years In A Short-Stay Hostel

    This Dialysis Patient From A Remote Community Has Spent Years In A Short-Stay Hostel

    Date

    This delay in receiving the DSP is not unusual, according to Stefanie Puszka, a researcher with the Menzies School of Health Research and the ANU.

  8. This Kidney Patient Thought Her Life Was At Risk.

    This Kidney Patient Thought Her Life Was At Risk.

    Date

    Stefanie Puszka, a researcher with the Menzies School of Health Research talks to BuzzFeed News.

  9. SMH | Hope and healing

    SMH | Hope and healing

    Date

    A new approach to treatment is helping Indigenous Australians fight kidney disease

  10. Fixing health—why housing and income policy must be part of the mix

    Fixing health—why housing and income policy must be part of the mix

    Date

    In an AHHA issues brief released today, Stefanie Puszka outlines why housing and income policy changes needed to improve health outcomes.

  11. COAG Health Council | Communiqué 8 March 2019

    COAG Health Council | Communiqué 8 March 2019

    Date

    The Federal, state and territory Health Ministers met in Adelaide at the COAG Health Council to discuss a range of national health issues.

  12. The Australian | Shortfall in transplants

    The Australian | Shortfall in transplants

    Date

    A recent study in The Medical Journal of Australia found indigenous people on dialysis were “substantially less likely” than other Australians to be placed on the waiting list for a kidney.

  13. The Wire | Kidney bias: Indigenous Australians missing out on transplants

    The Wire | Kidney bias: Indigenous Australians missing out on transplants

    Date

    Menzies has released a study highlighting the life-saving surgery many are missing out on and co-author Dr Paul Lawton spoke about some of the key findings.

  14. National Indigenous Times | Indigenous patients in need of new kidneys aren’t getting a fair go

    National Indigenous Times | Indigenous patients in need of new kidneys aren’t getting a fair go

    Date

    Indigenous patients with kidney disease are missing out on transplants because they are not being put on waiting lists for the potentially life-saving surgery, new research has found.

  15. Health system struggling with organ donation success

    Health system struggling with organ donation success

    Date

    Researchers from the University of Adelaide, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Menzies School of Health Research and Australia and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplant Registry found the disparity had barely changed over time.

  16. National review to investigate low Indigenous kidney transplant rates

    National review to investigate low Indigenous kidney transplant rates

    Date

    One of the members of the panel will be Dr Jaqui Hughes, Australia’s only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nephrologist, based at the Royal Darwin Hospital and at the Menzies School of Health Research, who said the news of the inquiry was “really welcome”.

  17. Feds unveil review of kidney process | NT News

    Feds unveil review of kidney process | NT News

    Date

    The Federal Government is poised to announce an inquiry into indigenous access to kidney transplants.

  18. 'Our kids need proper water': Families plead for action over uranium in drinking water

    'Our kids need proper water': Families plead for action over uranium in drinking water

    Date

    Respected Northern Territory kidney specialist Alan Cass, from the Menzies School of Health Research, said those claims needed "careful research".

  19. Budget 2018: Aboriginal patients convinced the Government to help them get home

    Date

    On her island home, far away from talk of tax cuts and budget wins and losses, Jacqueline Amagula got the news she has been waiting and fighting for.

  20. Win for dialysis patients in Northern Territory

    Win for dialysis patients in Northern Territory

    Date

    THE Territory’s kidney disease sufferers will be the major beneficiaries of a new Medicare item to be announced by the Turnbull Government today.

  21. NT News | Meetings for Health School

    NT News | Meetings for Health School

    Date

    Menzies School of Health Research is hosting the first consultation to establish patient and community led national guidelines to be added to the overall management plans for people affected by kidney health issues.

  22. Creating better guidelines for kidney health management

    Creating better guidelines for kidney health management

    Date

    Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) is hosting the first consultation to establish patient and community led national guidelines to be added to the overall management plans for people affected by kidney health issues.

  23. Roundtable Towards Roadmap For Renal Health - Media Release

    Date

    A renal roundtable convened by Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt AM in Darwin began charting the roadmap this week.

  24. ABC | Opinion: Not all doctors agree my patient deserved his kidney transplant.

    ABC | Opinion: Not all doctors agree my patient deserved his kidney transplant.

    Date

    Just before Christmas 2016, a 68-year-old man received a kidney transplant, one of 1,091 Australians that year.

  25. Indigenous Australians far less likely to get a kidney transplant

    Indigenous Australians far less likely to get a kidney transplant

    Date

    One in four Indigenous Australians will develop kidney disease, but new figures show that they are far less likely to be able to access a kidney transplant.

  26. Fair access demanded for patients

    Fair access demanded for patients

    Date

    KOORI MAIL | Remote Aboriginal Australians with kidney disease have demanded equitable access to life-saving treatment closer to home to prevent the removal of people from their traditional homelands.

  27. Listen to Indigenous patient experts on how to transform renal care

    Listen to Indigenous patient experts on how to transform renal care

    Date

    Their concerns and solutions are documented in a new report by the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin: Indigenous Patient Voices: gathering perspectives, finding solutions for chronic and end stage kidney disease.

  28. Racist’ heath system failing NT Indigenous kidney patients

    Racist’ heath system failing NT Indigenous kidney patients

    Date

    Menzies School of Health Research senior fellow and Dr G Yunupingu’s doctor Paul Lawton said while a non-indigenous kidney patient living in Darwin was as or more likely to receive a transplant as someone living in Sydney or Melbourne, that was not the case for Aboriginal people.

  29. Indigenous patients left feeling ’isolated’

    Indigenous patients left feeling ’isolated’

    Date

    AN INDIGENOUS dialysis patient being away from home and families is no good. That’s one of the messages from indigenous kidney patients calling for equitable care in a new report from Menzies School of Health Research.

  30. Remote kidney patients face homelessness

    Remote kidney patients face homelessness

    Date

    Patients and their support networks have called for equal health care closer to their homes in a new report released by the Menzies School of Health Research in the Northern Territory.

  31. Indigenous Australians travelling 1000 kilometres for kidney dialysis: report

    Indigenous Australians travelling 1000 kilometres for kidney dialysis: report

    Date

    In a new Menzies School of Health Research report, patients and carers from across northern and central Australia called on state, territory and federal government health ministers to overhaul the system to provide more holistic care.

  32. Indigenous kidney patients call for equitable care in new report

    Indigenous kidney patients call for equitable care in new report

    Date

    Indigenous people with kidney disease living in remote and rural Australia as well as their support networks have made a resounding call for equitable health care closer to home in a report released today by Menzies School of Health Research.

  33. Lucky Luke - The Darwin poet whose muse is a dialysis machine

    Lucky Luke - The Darwin poet whose muse is a dialysis machine

    Date

    In the Northern Territory in the 1990s, an Indigenous person was estimated to be 15 to 30 times more likely to have kidney failure than a non-Indigenous person. It was this disparity that compelled Paul Lawton, a kidney specialist, to move to Darwin from Melbourne.

  34. Preterm babies at risk of developing kidney disease

    Preterm babies at risk of developing kidney disease

    Date

    How healthy we are in adulthood is, in many ways, determined while we are still in the womb. Babies born prematurely could be at greater risk of developing kidney disease later in life according to a landmark Monash University study investigating the impacts of preterm birth on kidney development.

  35. Dr Jaqui Hughes interview, National TalkBlack

    Dr Jaqui Hughes interview, National TalkBlack

    Date

    Kidney specialist, Dr Jaqui Hughes talks to National TalkBlack

  36. Kimberley patients forced to travel thousands of kilometres for essential dialysis training

    Kimberley patients forced to travel thousands of kilometres for essential dialysis training

    Date

    A kidney health forum held in Darwin last week tabled the concerns of remote dialysis patients from Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

  37. ABC Online | Indigenous dialysis patients pushing for grassroots community health services

    ABC Online | Indigenous dialysis patients pushing for grassroots community health services

    Date

    Aboriginal dialysis patients say too many people are dying a lonely death away from their families, because they cannot be treated at home. In remote parts of Australia, patients whose kidneys are failing often have to leave their home communities to seek dialysis treatments in larger cities and towns.

  38. CAAMA |  Great potential to learn from Aboriginal people

    CAAMA | Great potential to learn from Aboriginal people

    Date

    The winner of a prestigious Kidney Health Australia Clinical Science Award says kidney specialists need to better understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander views on kidney transplant and how they wish to deal with kidney disease in communities.

  39. NT News - Kidney research wins prize

    NT News - Kidney research wins prize

    Date

    NT NEWS reports Professor Alan Cass, wins the prestigious Kidney Health Australia Clinical Science Award.

  40. Professor Alan Cass, wins clinical science award

    Professor Alan Cass, wins clinical science award

    Date

    Kidney specialist and Director of Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies), Professor Alan Cass, was presented with the prestigious Kidney Health Australia Clinical Science Award tonight at the 53rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology (ANZSN ASM) conference dinner.

  41. Indigenous voices to be heard

    Indigenous voices to be heard

    Date

    Indigenous people with end-stage kidney disease from across northern and central Australia will be sharing their stories at an upcoming kidney conference in the hope of effecting change.

  42. Organ Transplantation in Australia: Inequities in Access

    Organ Transplantation in Australia: Inequities in Access

    Date

    Transplantation Journal | Organ Transplantation in Australia: Inequities in Access and Outcome for Indigenous Australians.

  43. ABC Radio National - 'tsunami' of kidney disease

    ABC Radio National - 'tsunami' of kidney disease

    Date

    At the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory, RN Drive's Patricia Karvelas sat down with two experts in the field. Melanie Rarrtjiwuy Herdman Representing the CEO of Miwatj Health Dr Paul Lawton Kidney specialist from the Menzies School of Health Research who treated Dr G. Yunupingu

  44. Australian Financial Review - Dr Paul Lawton at Garma

    Australian Financial Review - Dr Paul Lawton at Garma

    Date

    The loss of Dr G Yunupingu to kidney disease has shone a light on the "largely preventable" renal health nightmare afflicting remote communities, his doctor says.

  45. Building care relationships in Alice Springs

    Building care relationships in Alice Springs

    Date

    Story-sharing builds care relationships in Alice Springs Kidney disease affects many Indigenous families in Central Australia. People are forced to leave their home communities to access life-maintaining dialysis treatment in major towns like Alice...

  46. ABC Life Matters - the gap in Indigenous life expectancy

    ABC Life Matters - the gap in Indigenous life expectancy

    Date

    The death this week of the wonderful singer Dr G Yunipingu at the age of just 46 from long-term illness, brings home once again the disparity in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

  47. Dr G Yunupingu chose to leave dialysis knowing he would die, doctor says

    Dr G Yunupingu chose to leave dialysis knowing he would die, doctor says

    Date

    Late Arnhem Land musician Dr G Yunupingu chose to end his dialysis treatment knowing the dire consequences that would follow, his doctor has told the ABC.

  48. Medicare Review Taskforce’s recommendation  for ‘on country’ dialysis

    Medicare Review Taskforce’s recommendation for ‘on country’ dialysis

    Date

    Menzies Director Professor Alan Cass, is also the Chair of the Renal Clinical Committee which is recommending a dedicated MBS item number to support ‘on country’ dialysis.

  49. NHMRC fellow shapshot: Dr Paul Lawton

    NHMRC fellow shapshot: Dr Paul Lawton

    Date

    Menzies research fellow, Dr Paul Lawton was recently awarded an Early Career Fellowship as part of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) yearly multi-million dollar funding round. Paul’s fellowship provides support for his...

  50. Top End health service delaying need for dialysis treatment amid soaring demand

    Top End health service delaying need for dialysis treatment amid soaring demand

    Date

    A kidney health program at a Top End health service is making inroads in the battle against dramatically rising numbers of patients with dialysis-dependency and renal failure.

  51. Powerful predictor for the progression of kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations

    Powerful predictor for the progression of kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations

    Date

    Study reveals powerful predictor for the progression of kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations

  52. Kids get kidney message

    Kids get kidney message

    Date

    EARLY education is the best way to bring down the NT's sky-high rate of kidney disease, according to Kidney Health Australia medical adviser Alan Cass.

  53. Australian Story: Mother's Day

    Australian Story: Mother's Day

    Date

    Ronald "Ronno" Morgan is a young tour guide from Wyndham in Western Australia's spectacular Kimberley region. But he's lucky to be alive, having twice faced a life-threatening challenge – first as a five-year-old and again as an adult. Until recently, his life was very much a roller coaster but he was fortunate to have the strong support of a very close family.

  54. Ronald's story to be told

    Ronald's story to be told

    Date

    It's been more than two decades since Maria Morgan gave her son Ronald the best gift she could, one of her own kidneys, which enabled him to live independently for 23 years.

  55. Mother's Day

    Mother's Day

    Date

    At age five, Ronno Morgan was a young Aboriginal boy from the Kimberly suffering from kidney failure and requiring emergency surgery

  56. World first research shows shocking numbers of preventable deaths from gaps in kidney failure treatment

    World first research shows shocking numbers of preventable deaths from gaps in kidney failure treatment

    Date

    Research by Menzies director Professor Alan Cass in collaboration with The George Institute for Global Health has shown that more than two million people globally die unnecessarily every year because they cannot access treatment for kidney failure (dialysis or a kidney transplant).

  57. MJA Insight: 'Let’s end kidney care disparity'

    MJA Insight: 'Let’s end kidney care disparity'

    Date

    Redoubling efforts to prevent Indigenous Australians developing end-stage kidney disease is crucial given the social and practical difficulties of delivering complex care such as dialysis and transplantation in remote Australia, Dr Paul Lawton has warned.

  58. Study reveals new ground made in fight against kidney disease

    Study reveals new ground made in fight against kidney disease

    Date

    New research has revealed an improvement in life expectancy for those suffering from end-stage kidney disease.

  59. Leading kidney researcher asks for greater engagement this World Kidney Day

    Leading kidney researcher asks for greater engagement this World Kidney Day

    Date

    To mark World Kidney Day, Australia’s first Indigenous kidney specialist has expressed a need for research institutes to have a greater level of engagement with the people who participate in their research efforts.

  60. 730NT: Fight against kidney disease scourge

    730NT: Fight against kidney disease scourge

    Date

    For people from remote communities, the diagnosis of kidney failure often means moving far from home to have life-saving dialysis. Some communities are so concerned about the increasing number of people leaving for dialysis, that they've rallied to set up their own clinics.

  61. Body and build of Indigenous Australians in the spotlight

    Body and build of Indigenous Australians in the spotlight

    Date

    The first ever detailed study of the body build and composition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been undertaken to help reduce the risk and impact of kidney disease in Indigenous populations.

  62. Esteemed kidney specialist recognised with national health science award

    Esteemed kidney specialist recognised with national health science award

    Date

    One of Australia’s leading kidney specialists has been recognised with a prestigious national award for his contributions to kidney health and advancing Indigenous health.