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Indigenous dialysis patients help sew 1,000 skirts for outback women in the Kimberley

Two women sit in armchairs hand-sewing skirts.
Susan and Margaret sew Bigirl Skirts in Broome for women in remote Kimberley communities.

ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith

A group of Indigenous dialysis patients who have been sewing skirts for remote community women during their treatments have completed their 1,000th garment.

Mary Nellie is more than 400km from home and is one of a dozen women who contributed to making the 1,000th skirt.

She is staying in Broome for dialysis treatment, far from friends and family in Fitzroy Crossing.

It is a common story for many Indigenous people in remote Australia, who have to move far from home to receive essential medical treatment.

An Indigenous woman sits at a sewing machine, with a woman standing either side of her and other women sitting in the background
The women work together to sew Bigirl Skirts.

ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith

The monthly Bigirl Skirts gatherings gives Ms Nellie, and other women receiving dialysis, a social event to look forward to.

"It's something to do. I like sewing and hanging out with these ladies," she said.

Special designs for outback women

Access to clothing can be limited in remote areas, with less choice for plus-size women.

Solange Rousset is one of the co-founder of Bigirl Skirts in Broome
Solange Rousset is one of the co-founders of Bigirl Skirts in Broome.

ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith

The Bigirl Skirts founders made a simple design, using cotton fabric with two double-stitched pockets to hold essentials.

The skirts are sent to Kimberley communities and sold for $10.

Four Broome women started the Bigirl Skirts project in 2012 after noticing a demand for skirts for larger women in remote communities.

Their 1,000th skirt is a significant feat considering they only sew for a few hours once a month, co-founder Solange Rousset said.

"It's a huge achievement," she said.

"It's just exciting that it's still happening and skirts are still being sold in communities. So there's a demand for it."

An Indigenous woman with silver hair sits in an armchair holding up a colourful skirt.
Susan holds up the 1,000th Bigirl Skirt as the group celebrate five years providing clothing to women in remote Kimberley areas.

ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith

While visiting the dialysis unit in Broome, Ms Rousset invited some women to join their circle, transforming Bigirl into a community event helping dialysis patients be active and socialise.

"Usually it's buzzing, as you can see today, and everyone comes and has their stories to share," she said.

Bittersweet celebration

But one of Bigirl Skirts' longstanding members passed away just weeks before the 1,000th skirt celebration.

She was in Broome receiving medical treatment. She had had both legs amputated and the women had helped her remain independent.

A rectangle cake and three round cakes, white and decorated with roses.
The group celebrates five years of making skirts for remote communities.

ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith

Ms Rousset said the women had helped organise transport to their monthly gatherings, which made a huge impact on the member's life.

"The woman who passed away was very special to us all," she said.

"She was in a wheelchair, and [we] got someone to actually do a ramp so she could be independent."

"So all these issues are considered."

Ms Rousset said the woman had been the life of the party and the group was mourning the loss.

"She was one of the first ones to come. That's why it's a bit sad today because it's the first Bigirl Skirt that she's not attending."