Dance highlights sacred celebration of Aboriginal culture

Westmead Private Hospital chief executive Mike Flatley, acting executive director of redevelopment Matt Sydenham, chief medical advisor A/Prof Ros Crampton, and Aboriginal liaison officer Shai Grigg raise the Aboriginal flag.

Understanding and collaboration was the message at Westmead and Cumberland hospitals today for the conclusion of NAIDOC Week celebrations in Western Sydney Local Health District.

Blacktown Hospital Aboriginal mental health worker Avis Deguara said she was encouraged to see many non-Aboriginal people taking part in events.

“This week is really sacred because we mustn’t forget where we come from in our hearts, and we invite people to join us in that,” Avis said.

“We need people to understand us and work beside us to continue our good roles.”

Blacktown Hospital Aboriginal mental health liaison Avis Deguara.

A Murri elder from Queensland, Avis has been working in mental health for 25 years including 15 years at Blacktown Hospital.

She said she has seen improvement thanks to the work of advocates and greater involvement of Aboriginal people in health projects.

“I wish people would understand gathering and how important it is, what it means to us. But it’s good that people are joining in to acknowledge and have respect for Aboriginal people,” Avis said.

“To see the flag raised in our hospitals – that does make you proud.”

Westmead Hospital Aboriginal liaison officer Narelle Holden began the formal proceedings this morning with an acknowledgement of the Baramada people on Darug land in Darug language.

The cultural celebration continued with western Sydney-based Aboriginal youth dance group Gadi Birrong, a Darug phrase meaning “under the stars”.

Speakers included Aboriginal mental health liaison officer Shai Grigg, Westmead Redevelopment Aboriginal artist Matt Poll, Westmead Hospital chief medical advisor Roslyn Crampton, acting executive director of redevelopment Matt Sydenham, and Westmead Private Hospital chief executive Mike Flatley.

Matt spoke about the significance of having a gathering place and Aboriginal art featured prominently in the Westmead Redevelopment.

“The works are a really important marker of how the contemporary Aboriginal community of greater western Sydney is reasserting itself in the 21st century,” he said.

The events concluded in the afternoon with a walking tour of the former Female Factory at Cumberland Hospital, a site of significant harm for Aboriginal women over many decades.

It wrapped up two weeks of NAIDOC celebration under the theme of ‘voice, treaty and truth’, including events at Cumberland Hospital and Mount Druitt Hospital as well as community outreach in Blacktown.