Orange hospital’s emergency department will look more welcoming after a new painting, Ochre Healing was unveiled in the waiting room.
Ochre is a mineral high in iron and was traditionally used by Aboriginal people to treat headaches to sun protection.
Wiradjuri artist Kylie Tarleton dedicated the painting to Aboriginal elder Neil Ingram Senior after learning of his experience fighting for equality and his health struggles.
“Orange is Wiradjuri country but there are elders from other nations and they came together to support Uncle Neil which is depicted by different totems in the painting,” Mrs Tarleton said.
Mr Ingram said he was “honoured” by the dedication of the painting.
“Wellness isn’t just a physical well-being of the individual, but refers to the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural well-being of the whole community,” he said.
Aside from representing a person’s and the community’s journey from sickness to health, Mrs Tarleton said the painting was part of the reconciliation process.
“Some indigenous people sometimes don’t come to hospital or they leaven when the come because they don’t feel safe,” she said.
“Aboriginal elders have that lived experience of adversity through government systems, this is a small step to help build trust with a system that is there to help the community.
“It’s a small step, there is a larger strategy that could be implemented as part of cultural competencies allowing patients and staff to feel safe.
“There’s a lot of preconceived notions within systems for how Aboriginal people are depicted which inform how they receive treatment through government agencies.”
Orange Health Service’s emergency department director Shamus Shepherd said it was important to recognise the importance of arts in health and well-being.
Dr Shepherd said visiting the emergency department was often a place during a person’s journey to better health.
“The waiting room was pretty barren and clinical, it was a good opportunity to brighten it,” Dr Shepherd said.
“This is making it a more welcoming and warmer place to be, particularly for indigenous patients.”
Dr Shepherd said hoped the painting was a catalyst to further changes such as seeing totems featured in the painting recreated around the emergency department.