Aboriginal Elder smiling with a colleague

Close the Gap Day: Uncle Bud came to share his wisdom in Macksville.

Reaffirming our commitment to Close the Gap in healthcare

Mar 28, 2024

Around the district on 21 March, events saw staff come together to reaffirm our collective commitment to Closing the Gap.

In Bellingen, artist Lisa Kelly held an art workshop for staff at the Bellinger River District Hospital. Lisa is the artist who designed the MNCLHD’s brand artwork featured on our brochures, website, publications and more.

As staff added their contribution to the artwork, Ms Kelly said, “Every artwork is beautiful because it’s a reflection of what you put in from here,” pointing to her heart.

“For me, art is a way of connecting to country and spirituality. It grounds me. I love sharing knowledge, and dreaming stories passed down from our ancestors,” Ms Kelly said.

Executive Officer and Director of Nursing Lisa Slater said with Close the Gap Day, Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination occurring on 21 March, the art workshop and final artwork created, would demonstrate the staff commitment to enhancing equality and equity.

“The artwork will be hung in our foyer and show how we work together to make health care more accessible and bring down the barriers our First Nations people face,” Ms Slater said.

Uncle Micklo Jarrett spoke in Gumbaynggirr language, told stories, spoke of the efforts to bring language back to the community, and sang a song from his grandmother’s brother, Uncle Tiger Buchanan. 

At Coffs Harbour, Gumaynggirr woman, Network Aboriginal Health Manager, Maxine Walker facilitated a yarning circle with Galambila Aboriginal Medical Service CEO and District Board Member Tracy Singleton, and Coffs Harbour and District NSW Police Aboriginal Liaison Kevin Wilson.

It was standing room only in the CHHC Education Room with staff from medical, nursing and social work keen to be part of the yaring circle. Also attending to listen and engage were NSW Public Health Executive Director Tamara Lee, and Coffs Clinical Network Coordinator and CHHC General Manager, Lydia Dennett. The Coffs Clinical Network Aboriginal Health Unit was acknowledged for its significant role in Closing the Gap and raising the Aboriginal voice in health services and care. 

The speakers shared their personal and career histories and spoke on barriers and challenges that stand in the way of Closing the Gap today and for future generations.

Ms Walker acknowledged Ms Singleton, as a respected Gumbaynggirr woman from Bowraville, as a leader in Aboriginal health services across the Mid North Coast using her knowledge, skills and experience to make a difference in the community.

“When we provide support, leadership and equity to Aboriginal people, we develop leaders like Tracy who have and continue to achieve success and come back to Gumbaynggirr Country and work with the community and local health district,” Ms Walker said. 

Ms Walker asked Ms Singleton for her thoughts on what key issue would make the greatest impact to close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

“True partnerships with trust, respect and equity,” Ms Singleton said.

Staff were also interested in Mr Wilson’s sharing of the Strong Wayz Program, as a way to guide and build Aboriginal boys aged 12 to 17 to be culturally strong and well-grounded Aboriginal men. The strong Wayz program is an Aboriginal health prevention program in partnership with the Coffs Clinical Network Aboriginal Health Team, Galambila AMS, Local Aboriginal communities and the NSW Department of Education.

“While many of us continue to do our part towards Closing the Gap, without working together committing to embed Aboriginal cultural safety, security and systematic change in health services, the process to close the gap will be long and slow,” Ms Singleton said.

“We cannot work in isolation. We invite everyone to join the conversation and contribute today and for future generations.”

Kempsey District Hospital, McGrath Foundation Breast Care nurse, Kelly Scott-McGrath, spoke with an audience of staff and community members in the Wutu Room. Ms Scott-McGrath explored how she has worked with Dunghutti women to raise awareness and access to breast cancer services and her goals to close the gap further over the next 12 months.

Her talk raised plenty of questions and conversation around the most common barriers that prevent people from accessing breast care services and the comparison of breast care diagnoses for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Ms Scott-McGrath works closely with MNCLHD Aboriginal Health Workers Christa Smith, Cindy Younie and manager Ro Sterling, whom she credits for the inroads made to deliver education to the community.

In Port Macquarie, colleagues gathered to discuss the 17 targets to Close the inequity gap between First Nations people and non-Aboriginal Australians. Board chair Peter Treseder joined the Grant Street crew to mark the occasion.

Click on the image below to see more photos from Close the Gap events.

Top of page