Three striking artworks will be a constant reminder to ACT Health staff and visitors to their Woden offices of the Ngunnawal connection to country and its importance in overcoming the consequences of previous government policies that have ongoing impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing.
Collectively known as the Cultural Walls, the imposing works by Canberra artist and community services worker Lynnice Church explore the importance of taking a holistic and collaborative approach to health, the rediscovery of language and identity, and the importance of understanding the true history of colonisation.
Launched at ACT Health’s Bowes Street offices on Friday, 28 May, to mark National Reconciliation Week, the three works commissioned by ACT Health contributes to, and complements, the development of the directorate’s Cultural Integrity Framework, which will ensure it continues to improve the cultural responsiveness of the health system.
The artwork, Our Health Journey, in the reception foyer tells a story of the journey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accessing the ACT Health system, and the keys to improving health outcomes.
Acknowledgement to Country, also in the foyer, with a duplicate outside the executive offices, is in Ngunnawal – gifted by the Winanggaay Language Group – and English, and infused with photographs and elements of Our Health Journey.
On level three, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Historical Timeline details significant dates from colonisation to the present that have impacted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
All works come with explanatory storyboards.
Ms Church – a Ngunnawal, Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi woman – said Indigenous health and wellbeing encompasses physical, spiritual, cultural, social and economic elements.
“We consider the whole wellbeing of our families and elders to be strong when all of those are balanced,” she said.
Ms Church said it is necessary to acknowledge and understand the relationship of colonisation to the poor health of Indigenous people today.
She said improving her people’s health requires work across different sectors and in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to gain their trust so services can be responsive to their unique needs.
It can not be done in isolation and requires a coming together to be successful, she said.
Ms Church said the artworks are a really good way to educate people and spark their curiosity to know more about the local Indigenous community.
ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the ACT Public Service has come a long way on its journey with the ACT’s traditional custodians, but acknowledged how far it still has to go to close the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
She said these remarkable and powerful works show the importance of working with community to close that gap.
“This work is an opportunity to provide a visual representation of the progress to a culturally safe workplace that is responsive to the health and wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our city,” she said.
Ms Stephen-Smith urged people on Reconciliation Day to take some time to reflect on their own place in the journey of reconciliation.
Also at the launch were ACT Health staff, United Ngunnawal Elders Council members, and members of the Winanggaay Language Group, which gifted Acknowledgement of Country in Ngunnawal language to the directorate.
The new ACT Government offices in the city and Dickson have also commissioned Indigenous artworks.