Indigenous health in focus during NAIDOC Week

Nunyara Aboriginal Health Unit and Ngiyang Aboriginal Pregnancy, Child and Family Health Service staff celebrate NAIDOC Week in the dedicated Aboriginal Cultural Space at Gosford Hospital

Like so many other community activities, NAIDOC Week 2020 looked a lot different on the Central Coast this year.

COVID-19 restrictions led to a scaling down of activities to celebrate the week, but Central Coast Local Health District was determined to do as much as it could to spread the important message of inclusion.

Manager of the District’s Nunyara Aboriginal Health Unit, Steve Ella, said staff throughout the Health District had been encouraged to decorate their work areas and wear Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colours all week.

Stalls were held throughout the week at Gosford, Wyong and Woy Woy Hospitals and Long Jetty Healthcare Centre to raise awareness by sharing NAIDOC Week and Aboriginal health resources with patients, families, carers, visitors and staff.

COVID safe smoking ceremonies were also held for mental health and drug and alcohol inpatients at Wyong and Gosford Hospitals and a National Apology Acknowledgement event including an unveiling of an Aboriginal artwork was held at Gosford Hospital.

“Like everybody else, we have had to comply with regulations in the ‘new normal’,” Ella said.

“It was important to keep all workers engaged in the importance of the week and having the colours on show was a really nice touch.

“The stalls held at our hospitals and at Long Jetty were very important in demonstrating what an important service we provide to the hospitals and to the community.

“They outlined how Aboriginal patients can best be supported and what is available or them once they leave hospital.”

Ella said around three per cent (more than 10,000) of the Coast’s population was of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, with numbers steadily rising as more people move to the region to be close to family and to access better employment opportunities and healthcare.

“We have one of the fastest growing Aboriginal populations according to data from the last two Censuses,” he said.

“Marking NADOC week is very important – it is a celebration of who we are, our culture, heritage and longevity.

“It is an opportunity to sow how proud we are to be Aboriginal and it also gives non indigenous people a chance to learn more about the First Nation people [and] to gain a more complete understanding of Australian and Aboriginal history and how they intertwine.”

Terry Collins

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