By ESTHER MACINTYRE

AT ITS first public event, Mildura Base Public Hospital celebrated 2020 NAIDOC Week on Wednesday morning with a COVID-Safe ceremony at the hospital’s interior courtyard.

Latji Latji man Arthur Smith provided a ‘Welcome to Country’, Barkindji elder Uncle Peter Peterson performed a moving smoking ceremony to bless everyone gathered and the organisation’s three flags, before local dance troupe, Marli Noongoos Pikilarna Maarni, entertained staff and visitors.

Hospital CEO Terry Welch acknowledged the traditional owners of the land on which the hospital stands, and gave a brief history of NAIDOC Week.

“NAIDOC Week is an opportunity to celebrate history, culture, and achievements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Mr Welch said.

“It is celebrated not only by Indigenous communities, but by Australians of all walks of life.

“As a new organisation we are very proud to celebrate and recognise NAIDOC Week.”

Flag smoking

Mr Welch paid special thanks to the Aboriginal Health Unit, and the hospital’s Indigenous Liaison Officers.

“Our Aboriginal Health Unit is an amazing unit that provides cultural support and advocacy for everyone from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people perspective,” Mr Welch said.

“It is committed to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for our patients of which some of them have joined us today, and I extend a very warm welcome to them all.

“As a new health service we’re very keen to connect with all people of ATSI background and NAIDOC Week is a wonderful opportunity to be able to do that.

Uncle Peter Peterson’s smoking ceremony blessed three flags − those of Australia, Aboriginal people’s and the Torres Strait Islands, before seeming to bring on a brief fall of rain during his final words as thunder echoed through the darkening sky above.

“NAIDOC Week is when we all come together as one, and we’re there for one another,” Uncle Peter said.

“To work with one another, help one another, and really engage with a lot of people.”

The three national flags will take up residence in the hospital foyer for all to see.

“We’ve had a beautiful smoking ceremony and been able to cleanse these flags which will now live in our foyer as a mark of respect and really build that cultural safety and openness that we want as we connect with community,” Mr Welch said.

 

Dancer Niesha Taylor, 13