April 2, 2019

Smoking Ceremony Garden Launch

Just outside Unit G is Jornung-Bik – A Pleasant Place, that was the scene this morning of a ceremony that has been observed for thousands of years to cleanse places and promote the wellbeing of people and guests on Country.

Colin Hunter Jr, Traditional Owner, welcomed attendees with a Smoking Ceremony, an Aboriginal custom that involves burning native plants which have cleansing properties. They are believed to ward off bad spirits from the people and the land and make pathways for a brighter future.

The opening of Jornung-Bik, Smoking Ceremony Garden, is part of a larger initiative that aims to improve cultural safety at Northern Health, stated Siva Sivarajah, Chief Executive Northern Health.

“It is the outcome of our partnership with staff members, patients and families, Wurundjeri Elders and the greater community to deliver a culturally appropriate space,” Mr Sivarajah explained.

Attendees included Cr Lawrie Cox, Mayor of Whittlesea, Kelli Hunter – Traditional Owner, Aboriginal elders and community, the Northern Health Aboriginal Advisory Committee Members and members of the Northern Health Executive Team and staff.

Simon Keating, Chief Strategy, Business and Development Officer, said the need for the garden was identified when an Aboriginal patient on a 12 year cancer journey entered Northern Health palliative care, before entering the dream time. At the request of the patient’s family, they wished to perform a Smoking Ceremony in the patient’s final days on the ward.

In recent past, Northern Health has had much to celebrate about our diverse community. Just a few weeks ago, we marked Harmony Week, in which National Close the Gap Day played an important role.

Northern Health is currently in the process of installing welcome signs in all our centres and hospitals, which welcomes patients in 14 languages and acknowledges the traditional owners of the land.

At today’s  opening, Mr Sivarajah announced the new wing under construction, would host a dedicated Aboriginal Family Room on Level 2.

Karen Bryant, Proud Gunditjmara woman and Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer at Northern Health said, “We now have a culturally safe space for Smoking Ceremonies. Included in this garden, we have installed a bollard or ‘message stick’ to educate the broader community about the significance of Smoking Ceremonies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The event concluded with didgeridoo player, Robert Bamblett and morning tea.

Siva Sivarajah and Karen Bryant officially opening the garden
Robert Bamblett