Broome Regional Medical Services commenced in 1978.
The Sisters of St. John of God gave BRAMS a part of their old convent to work from. At that time we had no funding. For the first three years our Founders worked for no pay, and our only contributions was from tong. We received funding from Brot fur die Welt, (Bread for the World) a West German church-based group. The Catholic Church (Bishop Railbe Co-op and Father McMahon) gave us second hand furniture.
Joanna Cox was BRAM’S first secretary, Roma Hines (nee Puertollano) was a secretary; Eileen Torres was also a secretary. Janet Richardson (nee Puertollano) and Maryanne Martin were the first nurses.
Mr Gerard Manado was the first President, Peter Howard was the first treasurer. Dr Joan McIlraith was the supporting doctor behind the scene. Pius and Gladys Gregory and Phillip Cox were the Committee members. The first ever patient of BRAMS has now passed away, but Mena Williams was our second patient; she worked with the AMS for over a decade.
Patient transport was in a personal small white panel van. In the late seventies Dr Wronski, Kevin Cox and Gerard use to travel throughout the Kimberley’s promoting BRAMS and getting people on side.
The service of a doctor was obtained from Congress in Alice Springs. After years of community struggle, the support of other services such as Redfern AMS in Sydney and after a period of funding from Bread for the World, Commonwealth Government funding was eventually secured through the then, Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA).
The gang served the community not only in Broome but Kimberley wide. They promoted Aboriginal Health throughout the Kimberleys. They fought for a long time to get Fitzroy Crossing to be set up. They used to also follow the bush meetings although they were not members of the Kimberley Land Council. The community members respected them. They used to say, ‘I don’t know you, but I seen you on television.’ Gerard Manado did not like to be in the spotlight … he was always behind the scenes.
At this time BRAMS serviced, Bidyadanga and Beagle Bay communities, flying our Doctors weekly to provide a full day clinic.
In 1983 the Health School was started with the help of Maggie Grant. Mr Kevin Cox and Gerard Manado were also instrumental in the setting up of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Council known as KAMSC.
In 1986 there was a strong movement to shift the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) funding into supporting Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and the Aboriginal communities. KAMSC evolved from BRAMS as an advocacy body to muster Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in the towns of Kununurra, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing and to apply for these new funds.
Sr Stella is a life member of BRAMS. Vera Kanagae is also a life member along with Maryanne Martin who worked for the medical service from the beginning. Dr Richard Murray, who is now head of the Medical School at JCU, was the first medical student.
Today BRAMS provides a comprehensive range of curative and public health services and currently is establishing a Family Centre. Today we have 35,000 episodes of care and 30,000 client contacts annually.