It is NAIDOC Week and as I sit in the weak winter sunshine enjoying a cup of tea from my beautiful Aboriginal artwork mug hand-painted by a young Anangu woman from north of Ceduna, I cannot help but reflect on culture and the effect it has on us as individuals and on the organisational microcosms that we work within.
When I was working in the regions, often in some of the most remote corners of the state, NAIDOC Week was always a time when I would join my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends and colleagues in celebrating their culture and helping to raise awareness of the many inequalities that beset our first nations peoples, particularly in the area of health.
Together, we would take our message to as many people as possible, working to change mindsets and push for that cultural shift that would ignite the drive to close the gap on health inequality.
After finishing my cup of tea and looking at the many photos of fantastic NAIDOC celebrations on social media, I was inspired to take my own cultural journey, in the organisational microcosm that is the North Eastern Community Hospital and, most notably, the North Eastern Community Nursing Home.
The ‘pulse’ of the facility told me that over 60% of the Nursing Home residents identify themselves as Italians, or Italian Australians – and for most of them, their home language remains Italian, with English as a second language.
There is a strong sense of family, a proud sense of culture and a passionate family bond that is strengthened as families get to know each other over time and become stronger advocates for not only their own loved one, but the loved ones of others who are now a part of this cultural group.
During my organisational wanderings yesterday, I had the absolute pleasure of running into a planned activity in the form of an Italian sing-along.
The Karaoke machine blared while a troupe of professional singers lent their melodic voices to the songs. I stood in amazement, spellbound by how heart-warming it was and moved by the sheer beauty of our humanness as a large group of dancing, clapping, laughing and singing residents and families immersed themselves in a joyous celebration of their culture.
It wasn’t long before my feet went into involuntary tapping and within moments, I was in the mix, dancing with them, sharing in the contagious laughter and even singing in Italian – at least I think I was – to words that sounded beautiful but were completely foreign to me.
I was honoured and privileged to be embraced by them and to share in that special moment.
I left that room determined that there should be more of this, more of these activities, more diversional therapies for these elders. It should be tailored to embrace all of our different cultures and it should offer raucous group celebrations as much as quiet walks in beautifully serene gardens.
I’m not quite sure right now what we’ll be doing, but I can assure you of one thing: watch this space.
While my quest as a cultural advocate and for health equality for Aboriginal people continues, my quest to provide cultural nourishment for the people who live at the North Eastern Community Nursing Home has just begun!
See you all at the NAIDOC Ball on Saturday night!
“Because of her, we can”