Yarns from the reconciliation walk

The beginning of Reconciliation Week at Western Sydney Local Health District saw more than 50 staff join together for a healing walk from Cumberland to Westmead Hospital.

The walk presented the opportunity for people of all different backgrounds to hear stories and share their own perspective on the meaning of the week.

During the walk, The Pulse asked five people what “reconciliation” means to them.

Krystyna Marszewska

Krystyna Marszewska is a researcher from Poland who works in the Westmead Hospital Mycology Lab, studying the genetic properties of fungi.

She attended the Australia Day protest in Hyde Park, Sydney this year and is concerned about opportunities for those living in regional and remote communities.

“Aboriginal people should be recognised and have the same rights and opportunities as anyone else,” Krystyna said.

“If we truly want Aboriginal people to have improved health outcomes and equal access to opportunity, then we need to pay more attention to their needs.”

Joanne Cheatham

Joanne Cheatham is the WSLHD Aboriginal immunisation officer, with a background in community services and child protection.

An Aboriginal woman, Joanne grew up in foster care and is now a carer herself.

“Reconciliation is about everyone coming together as a community, not being divided, and working together to close the gap,” she said.

“Equality, inclusiveness and togetherness is the most important thing to me. That’s why I encouraged a lot of non-Aboriginal staff to attend the Reconciliation Week event.

“This is not just a black issue. This is an everyone issue. We need to start with the truth, that’s the right foundation to build on, but everyone needs to be empowered to be involved and work together.”

Tara Lee

Tara Lee is a community and consumer partnership officer, working to improve patient experience across the district.

“To me, this week is about building and strengthening relationships between Indigenous and non- Indigenous people and it’s an ongoing journey,” Tara said.

“I really like the theme of ‘Grounded in Truth, Walk Together with Courage’, as first of all we must face the truth of our history.

“You may have to challenge what you have learned in the past and be uncomfortable with that truth, but I am here today because I support that.”

Margaret Nekeare-Cowan

Margaret Nekeare-Cowan is a consumer representative, volunteering her time to help ensure patients have their voice heard.

“Today was very important to me as a Pacific Islander because if we don’t recognise the wrongs of the past, there’s always a danger of repeating them,” Margaret said.

“It’s very important to acknowledge the past in order to see healing, find harmony and move forward.

“I also think it’s important to say that the wrongs of a few people don’t always reflect the whole group. That goes both ways with reconciliation.”

Luke Felicetti

Luke Felicetti is the acting executive director of Integrated and Community Health.

“For me and for Western Sydney LHD, this week is about acknowledging and being honest about our history and the treatment of Aboriginal people,” Luke said.

“The only way to improve things now is to come together. Today we saw Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff walking together with respect, and that’s what we need to see every day in order to improve health outcomes.

“We need to collaborate and work together as a team, both in how we work and in how we treat each other.”