NAIDOC smoking ceremony marks change at Waratah's Mater hospital

Senior Aboriginal Health Education Officer for Pallative Care Kathryn Bensley address patients and staff at the Calvary Mater Hospital on Thursday for NAIDOC Week.

Senior Aboriginal Health Education Officer for Pallative Care Kathryn Bensley address patients and staff at the Calvary Mater Hospital on Thursday for NAIDOC Week.

Uncle Bill Smith carries out the smoking ceremony at the Mater Hospital for NAIDOC Week.

Uncle Bill Smith carries out the smoking ceremony at the Mater Hospital for NAIDOC Week.

WARATAH'S Calvary Mater Hospital had its first official smoking ceremony last week in celebration of NAIDOC week.

The hospital's executive committee has decided to take the initiative one step further and allow smoking ceremonies to be performed on site all year round.

Senior Aboriginal health education officer for Palliative Care Kathryn Bensley said allowing smoking ceremonies on the hospital's site was an important process for families who come to the Mater, being the Hunter's major centre for cancer services.

She said smoking ceremonies were an important part of Aboriginal culture because they warded off bad spirits and allowed the spirits to return home.

"We are dealing with death and people dying every day here," Mrs Bensley said.

"A lot of people who come to the Mater don't come from Newcastle. It's important that their spirits can go back to country," she said.

The Mater also celebrated NAIDOC Week with a didgeridoo performance by Steve Lombardi and an afternoon tea.

Mrs Bensley said NAIDOC Week was an important celebration because it recognised Aboriginal people as the first traditional owners of the land. It also celebrates their history, culture and achievements, she said.

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