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Cleansing Wentworth’s Future

Last week, several regional Elders participated in a land-cleansing and cultural ceremony at the site of the new $30 million Wentworth Health Service Redevelopment.

The ceremony was conducted to prepare the land as a welcoming and safe space, following an ancient Aboriginal tradition that included a traditional smoking ceremony, dance performances, bush tucker, and song.

Barkandji Elder Aunty Clair Bates stated, “Cleansing the land is an integral part of our connection with Country to restore and rejuvenate the land spiritually, and today’s ceremony signifies that this hospital will be a healthy and safe place where the whole community can come to be healed.”

Born in Wilcannia, Aunty Clair grew up on a mission and later lived between Wentworth and Dareton.

She moved to the coast, where she resided for 40 years and worked for the Education Department in Newcastle and Sydney for 30 years.

Although she initially returned to Wentworth 12 years ago to retire by the river, she soon found work with NSW Health, where she served for six years before retiring a second time. Nonetheless, her retirement involves many cultural activities, including basket-weaving and educating others about her culture. She notes, “It keeps me busy.”

Aunty Clair’s sister, Jenny Bates, also attended the ceremony.

Born in Wilcannia, Jenny lived in Dubbo for 30 years before relocating to Wentworth, just “a few doors down” from Aunty Clair’s home. Discussing the Wentworth health project, Aunty Clair said, “We have worked closely with the project team on the design of this important new health facility to make it a place welcoming to all.”

She further mentioned that the Aboriginal Advisory Group, of which she is a member along with Aunty Jenny, Uncle Brian Hunt, and Aunty Rhonda Hinge, ensured the design of the new hospital reflects the historical and cultural significance of the land upon which the service will be built.

Brad Astill, Chief Executive Officer of the Far West Local Health District, concurred with Aunty Clair, noting, “Today’s event is important to recognise, respect, and continue traditional Aboriginal practices and acknowledge the continuing connection to land, culture, and community.” He added, “We want this new, modern hospital to be a culturally safe and welcoming place that supports the health needs of the entire Wentworth community.”

PICTURE: Standing (from left): Gert Halbgebauer (Health Infrastructure), Timothy O’Neil (Wentworth Health Service Manager), Denise McCallum (FWLHD GM District Health Services), Brad Astill (FWLHD Chief Executive), Corina Kemp (FWLHD Director Aboriginal Health and Community Relations). Sitting: Barkandji Elders Uncle Brian Hunt and Aunty Clair Bates, Rebecca Crawford (FWLHD Cultural Community Engagement Officer) and Barkandji Elders Rhonda Hines and Jenny Bates. INSERT: A land-cleansing and cultural ceremony at the site of the new $30 million Wentworth Health Service Redevelopment. SUPPLIED

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