Woy Woy hospital celebrates NAIDOC Week

Aboriginal liaison officers Jody Milson and Wayne Merritt (in blue shirts) with Woy Woy hospital staff at the NAIDOC Week stall

A stall at Woy Woy Hospital last week was part of a scaled-down celebration of NAIDOC Week by Central Coast Local Health District in light of COVID-19 restrictions.

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.

He said the Woy Woy stall, along with others at Gosford and Wyong Hospitals and Long Jetty Healthcare Centre aimed to raise awareness by sharing NAIDOC Week and Aboriginal health resources with patients, families, carers, visitors and staff.

“It was vital to have a stall at Woy Woy to demonstrate that it is just as important to the Health District as our larger hospitals,” he said.

“A lot of our patients go through Woy Woy Hospital and the staff there are always very receptive and supportive.”

Ella said scaling down NAIDOC Week celebrations was disappointing, but part of a “new normal” in the wake of COVID.

“The stalls were very important in demonstrating what an important service we provide to the hospitals and to the community,” he said.

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

On hand to provide information at the Woy Woy stall were Aboriginal liaison officers Jody Milson and Wayne Merritt.

“We work out of all hospitals in the Health District and at Woy Woy we concentrate on patients in rehabilitation, sub-acute and transitional care,” Milson said.

“We provide cultural support to Aboriginal patients and help them in engaging with staff.

“Some of them have been newly diagnosed and need that one on one support.”

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 show how proud we are to be Aboriginal and it also gives non indigenous people a chance to learn more about the First Nation people who have been here for 60,000 years or more; a chance to gain a more complete understanding of Australian and Aboriginal history and how they intertwine.”

Terry Collins