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Indigenous culture takes pride of place in Port Stephens Practice

Merlemerleh (Butterfly) by Antina Nabegeyo

Two stunning artworks adorning the walls of Salamander Bay allied healthcare provider Pelvic Form Physiotherapy have been generating positive conversations about Indigenous culture among its staff and patients.

Acquired through a grant provided by the Primary Health Network in honour of NAIDOC Week 2022, the artworks and the stories they depict are increasing cultural awareness and appreciation of First Nations storytelling.

“The Butterfly Weave now hanging in our reception waiting area has been particularly popular,” said physiotherapist and owner Amy Hansen. “Our patients are wanting to know the story behind the weave, and we are happily passing on the meaning behind it and information about the artist.”

Titled Merlemerleh (Butterfly) the artist Antina Nabegeyo, of the Djalama Clan, describes the artwork as follows:

We see merlemerle (butterflies) all over the place, fluttering away in fright into the trees when we come close. In the past, children used to go looking for manyahyay (yellow flowering acacia) trees, which were always covered in butterflies when they flowered. They would amuse themselves for hours chasing after the butterflies with sticks.

People say that when a butterfly comes and flies around you, it tells you that people are coming to visit you.

Gulaga in Cloak by Cheryl Davison

The second artwork is by Cheryl Davison, a Walbunja, Ngarigo woman. As a child she spent precious time sitting next to her grandfather in his old wooden boat on the shores of Wallaga Lake on the Far South Coast of New South Wales.

Her piece, titled Gulaga in Cloak tells the following story:

Gulaga was a woman who was married. Her husband said he would make her a white cloak and he went on a journey. He was looking for Albino possums. It takes a very long time to find Albino possums. Gulaga was upset that her husband took so long. Eventually he returned with a white cloak for her to wear.

The artwork depicts Gulaga wearing the white cloak. Gulaga is also a mountain for the Yuin people of southern New South Wales, and the white cloak also represents when the white clouds descend on the mountain. Yuin people also know Gulaga as Mother Mountain. It is an important women’s place, linked to ceremony, childbirth and storytelling.

Amy said the team at Pelvic Form Physiotherapy was grateful to be chosen to receive the NAIDOC grant.

“This process has impacted our business in a positive way, building cultural awareness in staff, patients, and the wider community. It has brought and will continue to bring deep respect and acknowledgement of our First Nations community.

“Thank you for the opportunity to bring Indigenous cultural awareness to our business and value it immensely.”

Across the Hunter New England Central Coast PHN over $120,000 in NAIDOC Week grants were delivered to primary care providers including General Practice, Allied Health, Commissioned Service providers as well as Aboriginal Medical Services.

The artworks were sourced from Injalak Arts, a centre for art, craft and community since its opening in 1989. It is based in Gunbalanya, an Aboriginal community of 1,200 in West Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

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