Eyre Peninsula communities will benefit from the partnership between the Starlight Children's Foundation and Masonic Charities SA/NT, which will help bridge the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians living in rural and remote communities.
The Healthier Futures Initiative (HFI) was established to help improve the wellbeing of Indigenous children, focusing on detection and early treatment of chronic health conditions through entertainment and play.
Masonic Charities has committed $900,000 to Starlight over the next three years, allowing the latter to roll out its HFI in South Australia on a permanent basis, having completed a successful two-year pilot program.
Working with health professionals, Starlight helps to ensure clinics are positive experiences for children and families by engaging them through music, art, dance and storytelling.
The program will see Starlight make more than 100 trips until the end of 2022, travelling to Eyre Peninsula and Far West communities such as Ceduna, Yalata and Port Lincoln, with the help of Captain Starlight.
Starlight visited Port Lincoln in February and September, with a trip to Yalata planned for November and to Ceduna next year.
During the visits Starlight personnel accompany health professionals, keep the children present and entertained, and aim to provide a positive overall experience.
Starlight's hospital program manager for South Australia Beck Parker said the organisation was fundamental to the healthcare system.
"We're thrilled to be able to extend this vital program to greater South Australian families experiencing serious illness," she said.
"By engaging families through song, dance and storytelling, Starlight has helped improve health clinic attendance, promoting prevention and early intervention.
"In addition to keeping children engaged during their healthcare visits, Captain Starlight provides a sense of connection and familiarity for these families - a priceless act in helping to reduce their anxiety when seeking treatment in the clinic or hospital."
Ms Parker said Eyre Peninsula communities had already seen the benefits of the program.
"We are finding our presence in these clinics is increasing attendance, and through our attendance we can see more kids and get early detection happening which is needed for chronic disease," she said.
"Our visits started last year and it is exciting to continue to do so.
"It has been really well received - we were in Port Lincoln in February and when we came back [last] month the staff were so welcoming. The kids have been through a lot with COVID and testing, so the Captain is there to relieve anxiety and to make them comfortable."
Masonic Charities chairperson John Behenna said the partnership was part of Freemasonry's contribution to the wider community.
"There is much good in the world and we are delighted to be part of it," he said.
"The Masonic Charities board, as the vanguard of Freemason philanthropy, seeks an ambitious agenda in benevolence, in South Australia and the Northern Territory, of which this magnificent project is a part."
Indigenous children have some of the highest levels of preventable diseases in the world.
Outcomes from Starlight's HFI on Indigenous children in other states the program has run included increased attendance at clinics, early detection of chronic disease, easier management of clinics, and positively changed attitudes and beliefs about health care.