St George and Calvary hospitals open new facilities for NAIDOC Week

Carers' area: Pictured: Meng Chen, Samantha Gifford, Uncle Charles 'Chicka' Madden, Vicki Weeden, Aunty Annette Webb, Vivianne Ajaka and Margaret Broadbent.
Carers' area: Pictured: Meng Chen, Samantha Gifford, Uncle Charles 'Chicka' Madden, Vicki Weeden, Aunty Annette Webb, Vivianne Ajaka and Margaret Broadbent.

Two hospitals in St George have marked NAIDOC Week by opening new areas for the community's Aboriginal patients and their families to enjoy.

St George Hospital welcomed the Bidjigal Room - a new carers' lounge that has been designed to provide a welcoming space for the Aboriginal community.

It will provide a quiet room where patients and their families, plus carers, can enjoy a cup of tea, a conversation, or a rest while their loved one is getting treatment.

There is a kitchenette and lounge area, fridge, dining table and chairs, a microwave oven, television and tea and coffee facilities.

Aunty Annette Webb created the artwork hanging on the walls.

Funding for the room was provided through the Ministry of Health Aboriginal Minor Capital Works Program.

Nearby at Calvary Hospital, Kogarah, staff introduced their latest greenery project - an Aboriginal community garden.

Sacred space: A smoking ceremony marks the opening of a new garden for Aboriginal patients and their families at Calvary Hospital.

Sacred space: A smoking ceremony marks the opening of a new garden for Aboriginal patients and their families at Calvary Hospital.

The garden is an acknowledgement of Aboriginal peoples' rich history and cultural connection to the land on which the hospital is built.

The aim is to create a welcoming space for the Aboriginal community, as well as for staff, patients and visitors to enjoy.

It is an inititive that supports the stategic directions of the NSW Aboriginal Health Plan 2013-2023, which aims to reduce cultural barriers and enhance the capacity to deliver quality healthcare to Aboriginal people.

The project was coordinated in consultation with Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation, the South Eastern Sydney Local Health Distcit (SESLHD) Aboriginal Health Unit and the Calvary Kogarah Ngara-baya Aboriginal Sub-Committee.

It has benches and tables, a crushed granite pathway for improved accesibility, an open entrance from the street, memory poles painted by the Bulbuwil Art Group, laser cut screening and native Australian plants.

Landscape architect Alex Crow donated his time to design the garden. Some of the plant choices were inspired by 'Dark Emu' - a novel by Bruce Pasco about Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture. This includes selecting plants such as kangaroo grass - the seeds of which were historically traded by Aboriginal people as part of their nationwide economy.

There is also a memorial plaque for Annie Ariche, an Aboriginal woman who lived on the site.

Members of St George Men's Shed also recommissioned a telegraph pole previously used on the facility site for the memory poles. The poles were painted by the Bulbuwil Art Group.

At the opening event there was a Welcome to Country, flag raising and smoking ceremony.

The federal government announced this week it is investing more than $5.6 million in medical research focusing on healthy ageing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Coinciding with NAIDOC week and the release of two key Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) will provide the funding to support six research projects.

The aim of this targeted research is to address the need for rigorous, culturally-informed research that ultimately improves the health and experiences of ageing in older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples currently have poorer health outcomes and higher rates of disability than non-Indigenous Australians of the same age. They are also more likely to live with chronic and complex conditions that lead to a poorer quality of life and to die at a younger age.

This funding will support practical and innovative research into the best approaches to prevention, early intervention, and treatment of health conditions of greatest concern to ageing Indigenous communities.

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