The “most unique” NSW health service, Wiyiliin ta, celebrated 21 years of contributing to the mental wellbeing of young Aboriginal Australians by performing a symbolic cleansing ceremony, raising the Aboriginal flag on-site for the first time and unveiling a Bush Tucker Healing Garden at James Fletcher Hospital campus.
Wiyiliin ta is the only publicly funded mental health service for young Aboriginal people and despite being a clinical counselling service, they have a unique focus on connecting clients to their cultural roots to promote holistic healing.
“We have a responsibility to the younger generation to set foundations and a pathway to walk,” Aboriginal elder Uncle Bill said on Monday.
“It is important to know who you are and where you are from, because then you can stand tall with your roots deep in the earth.”
Named ‘Dhuruulinba’, meaning “place of healing” in local Awabakal language, the bush tucker garden adds an extra layer to the support the servoce provides to Aboriginal Australians aged between two and 18, general manager of mental health services at Hunter New England Health, Leanne Johnson, said.
“It is about counselling and guiding Aboriginal people whilst engaging in things that are culturally empowering and enriching,” said Ms Johnson.
Dhuruulinba has been cultivated over the past weeks by members of the community and the Wiyiliin ta team and is made up of native plants, many of them edible, including acacias, gum trees, lemongrass, native ginger and midginberries.
In celebration of the garden opening and 21 years of Wiyiliin ta services, in a momentous occasion the Aboriginal flag was raised for the first time on the hospital grounds, representing to the Aboriginal community that it is a safe place to seek help.
“The flag is up, there is no need to be scared,” Cultural Leader of Wiyiliin ta Charlie Faulkner said.
Mary Watson and Jude Payling have worked for Wiyiliin ta for the entirety of its operation, and are thrilled at the amount of children and families they have been able to reach. “These children are leading the way to a more hopeful future,” Ms Watson said.
Local Aboriginal dance and didgeridoo groups performed traditional songs and dances to mark the occasion.