Indigenous health worker Elise Bailey, Cooloola Aboriginal Services president Aunty Lillian Burke, elder Aunty Olive Bennet and Torres Strait Islander representative Chop Lewis.
Indigenous health worker Elise Bailey, Cooloola Aboriginal Services president Aunty Lillian Burke, elder Aunty Olive Bennet and Torres Strait Islander representative Chop Lewis. Renee Pilcher

Flying flags for reconciliation

IN TRUE spirit of NAIDOC Week, yesterday’s flag-raising ceremony at Gympie Hospital welcomed new indigenous hospital liaison officer Chris Gorrie and his beautiful blended family.

Mr Gorrie was recently appointed to work with the hospital’s Indigenous Health department and provide more appropriate support and advocacy for local indigenous people.

He relocated to Gympie for the position with his young family, who are proud to be a mix of the Koori and Murri people.

Mr Gorrie said the term Koori applied to Aboriginal people from Victoria and southern New South Wales and Murris traditionally occupied most of Queensland.

His union with wife Deanne, originally from Bundaberg, means his children are related to both groups.

He said NAIDOC Week was a time for indigenous people and families like theirs to share success stories.

“It is almost 40 years to the day that the Aboriginal flag was first raised in Adelaide’s Victoria Square on the 12th of July in 1971,” he said.

“Like the Torres Strait Islander flag, it was created as a symbol of unity and identity.”

The flags were raised alongside the Australian flag yesterday after two more flagpoles were installed at the hospital’s entry last week. A hospital spokesman said the move to fly all three flags demonstrated Queensland Health’s commitment to closing the gap in indigenous health by officially recognising their culture.

Australian-born Chop Lewis honoured his Torres Strait Islander heritage by raising the country’s flag alongside Aunty Olive Bennet, who welcomed the hospital’s move to fly indigenous flags.

“At last they have responded with reconciliation...it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

“So much has changed in Gympie in the 70 years I’ve been here. There was a little wooden hospital here, now it is a great facility.”

NAIDOC Week is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. It also honours indigenous elders’ cultural knowledge, skills and goodwill they carry within the community

This year’s theme – Change: the next step is ours – is aimed toward Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people taking responsibility for the future, by planning and taking action to instil positive change.

Gympie Times


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