Doing it for our Elders

From Monday 3 July, Calvary Mater Newcastle staff donned their commemorative pins with pride, to mark National NAIDOC Week.

Each year, celebrations take place across the country to acknowledge the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year at the Mater was no different, with a jam-packed schedule of activities taking place both on and off campus.

A great turn-out of staff and friends of the Mater attended the Hunter’s official launch at Civic Park. Following the opening ceremony, Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer, Margaret Whitson, led the group on the long march into the foreshore, flying the Mater flag.

“It was a wonderful day to spend with colleagues and community, bringing together culture,” Margaret said.

Back at the hospital, proud Worimi man Leigh Ridgeway, led staff in an Acknowledgement of Country and talked through the meaning of NAIDOC Week. Leigh spoke passionately about the importance of knowing your true self and the integral role this plays in belonging, and – in a nod to this year’s theme ‘For our Elders’ – talked about the importance of such figures in families and communities.

Mater Patient Experience Officer, Jenny Metcalfe, attended alongside her family – who are proud Gomeroi people – including her mother and Elder Doreen and sister Aunty Trish. Generously sharing her own experiences, Aunty Trish spoke to the wider staff group.

Closing formalities with a smoking ceremony, Leigh walked from the Ward 4B courtyard around the outside of the hospital, in traditional dress with burning gum to cleanse the area.

Linda and Ray from local food business ‘OzTukka’ fed the masses with scones, native jam and cream, and were on hand to provide education about native Australian bush foods.

Palliative Care Aboriginal Health Coordinator, Julieanne Rose, and Director of Palliative Care, Dr Rachel Hughes, also honoured NAIDOC Week at the monthly staff Grand Rounds. The pair highlighted the Miromullia Project (continue to take care of, Awabakal language), which looks at co-designing Palliative and End of Life Care with the Newcastle Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Hunter New England Aboriginal Health Workers Thomas Croft, Preston Connors and Lili Holmes, showcased their incredible talents of dot painting, drawing, weaving and other crafts on-site, while Margaret Whitson led yarning time with staff and community members who were interested in learning more.

“Thank you to the social work team and Mater staff for their support and participation throughout the week. The social work team reported that they loved their weaving session and the opportunity this provided for cultural expression and learning through yearning,” Margaret said.

Thanks to the commitment of Margaret and her team, NAIDOC Week celebrations at the Mater were a great success. In line with the 2023 theme, the activities honoured that across every generation, Elders have played, and continue to play, incredibly important roles.