An eye to the past and a focus on the future for Reconciliation Week

Staff and visitors begin the healing walk at Cumberland Hospital, a site of particular significance for recognising the wrongs of the past during Reconciliation Week.

Ochre adorned the faces of staff and visitors walking from Cumberland to Westmead Hospital today, as a sign of respect for Aboriginal culture at the start of Reconciliation Week.

Burramattagal knowledge holder Kerrie Kenton encouraged people to mark their faces to signal they would keep an open mind, see the truth, and always speak the truth.

“To know the truth, we can walk forward together in healing and reconciliation,” Kerrie said.

“Our people can’t heal and move forward if we’re not heard and don’t have a valid voice.”

Aboriginal Health Strategy director Braiden Abala speaks after the event at Cumberland Hospital.

Kerrie spoke of the history of the Parramatta region and Cumberland Hospital, where girls including her great-great-grandmother were taken from their families and their culture to the Parramatta Native Institute.

She also spoke about the significance of Parramatta River to the many tribes of the Darug people, and invited people to take part in a smoking ceremony to represent their commitment to speaking and hearing the truth.

Aboriginal Health Strategy director Braiden Abala said the week was about people of all cultures and backgrounds working together to improve life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the nation.

Kerrie Kenton, Aboriginal Health Strategy director Braiden Abala, Aboriginal service manager Belinda Cashman, and Westmead Hospital Aboriginal liaison officer Narelle Holden.

More than 50 people then walked to Westmead Hospital, where the Aboriginal flag was raised.

Westmead and Auburn hospitals general manager Brett Thompson explained the meaning behind the Reconciliation Week poster and invited people to reflect on how they could be part of the healing process.

“We all have a role to play and this walk today was just the very beginning,” Brett said.

Aboriginal liaison officer Narelle Holden closed the official proceedings by inviting everyone to continue the walk to reconciliation.

“Look to the wrongs of the past, accept and embrace each other, and together we can gain a better world for all mankind,” Narelle said.

Reconciliation Week will continue to be observed across Western Sydney Local Health District, with events at Auburn Hospital on Tuesday, Blacktown Hospital on Wednesday, and Mount Druitt Hospital on Thursday.