Local culture and history unveiled to western Sydney community

Uncle John Morvell, Narelle Holden (Aboriginal Liaison Officer), Vicki Lonsdale-Micallef and Pauline Stockham were joined by other Local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders to get their first look at the new Cultural Gathering Place.

Local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders have caught their first glimpse of Westmead Health Precinct’s new Cultural Gathering Place.

Welcomed to inspect the forecourt gardens of the Central Acute Services Building (CASB) by Western Sydney Local WSLHD Aboriginal Health Strategy director Braiden Abala, the Elders felt an instant sense of belonging and connection to culture in the hospital environment.

Westmead CASB Aboriginal Elders visiting cultural garden. Group photo

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elder Aunty Stella Cunningham said she felt a calmness wash over her as she entered the cultural space.

“This area is a very public display of Aboriginal culture and I definitely feel at home in this space,” she said.

“As a visitor, this place would heal me and help me come to terms with what is going on in my life.

“It will be a safe space for all community members.”

Aunty Stella Cuningham (Aboriginal Elder)

The Cultural Gathering Place, open to all hospital goers, offers a chance for cultural reflection and education.

Designed to ensure a safe and welcoming place for all people, country and kinship, the space features four art projects – Tools of Knowledge, All That Remains, Mudinga and Sound of Water.

The art infuses the garden with sight and sound direct from Parramatta River to help celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and its connection to land and water. 

“This area will spark conversation with the younger generation – conversation about Aboriginal practices,” Aunty Stella said.

“Every hospital should have a space like this.”

An adjacent room also offers a quiet space for family and friends of patients.

WSLHD Aboriginal Health Strategy director Braiden Abala said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients were five times more likely to discharge themselves against medical advice than other patients.

He hopes the Cultural Gathering Place will help reduce this statistic.

“We want all community members to feel safe when receiving treatment at our facilities,” Braiden said.

“If you feel safe you are more likely to engage in the service, which in turn will improve health outcomes.

“The response from the Elders has been overwhelming. They all seemed very humble knowing they will have a space where they can go.”

Westmead CASB Aboriginal Elders visiting cultural garden. Left to right: Vishnugar Arunasalam (Health Promotion Officer), Narelle Holden (Aboriginal Liaison Officer), Carol Muthunesan (Aboriginal Care Facilitator), Caspa Tyson (Aboriginal Workforce Coordinator), Shai Grigg (Aboriginal Liaison Officer), Braiden Abala (Director Aboriginal Health Strategy)

Braiden paid special thanks to Narelle Holden, Shai Grigg and Rita McKenzie who had worked tirelessly on the project with Westmead Redevelopment over the past five years.

“This place would not have been possible without your expert guidance and input,” he told guests.

The Cultural Gathering Place officially opens in August 2021.

For more information about community tours, please contact the social work department on 02 8890 5555 and ask to speak with Narelle Holden.