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‘A significant foundation of our culture’: Elders’ role explored


Jolyon Attwooll


6/07/2023 4:21:33 PM

Run by RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, a NAIDOC Week webinar looks at the vital role of Elders in community wellbeing.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag
A scene from a previous NAIDOC Week event, which runs every year to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. (Image: AAP Photos)

Three RACGP panellists have explored the role of Elders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in an event to tie in with NAIDOC Week.
 
Panellists included Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and a Torres Strait Islander woman descending from Boigu Island, along with her predecessor in that role Professor Peter O’Mara – a Wiradjuri man who works as a GP at Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service and founded the Werin Aboriginal Medical Service.
 
Dr Kirsty Jennings, a Biripi woman from NSW who first trained as a social worker before turning to general practice, was the third member of the panel.
 
In the webinar, which is now available on-demand, the panellists discussed identifying Elders and recognising their important status, as well as their significant role in community health and wellbeing.
 
‘I feel really privileged that I am someone who gets to work with people who are considered Elders in the community, and learn from their role-modelling, their gentleness, [and] their subtle approach in how they get messages across,’ Dr Nicholls said.
 
‘It’s such a privilege to be able to learn an alternate way of doing and being that I think a lot of Australians can actually learn from.
 
‘It’s more than being able to do the artwork, or do a dance, it’s about the values in which you live your life … the Elders pass down and demonstrate those values.’
 
Professor O’Mara also welcomed the opportunity to acknowledge Elders and their role.
 
‘Elders are a significant foundation of our culture,’ he said.
 
‘I would say the true sense of an Elder is not just a person who is old, it is much more than that.
 
‘An Elder for me is someone with wisdom and humility … I think mostly it’s about hearing and wisdom and putting the community before themselves.’
 
The discussion was held as part of the build-up to NAIDOC Week, which takes place every year to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The overall theme this year is ‘For Our Elders’, with events running from 2–9 July.
 
The webinar, which is free for both members and non-members, is available on-demand on the RACGP website.
 
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health Elders NAIDOC Week


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Dr Ursula Christopher   9/07/2023 4:06:44 PM

It is extremely important to acknowledge our indigenous peoples and it is equally important to acknowledge all other peoples of this great land no matter where they have arrived in this land from All peoples deserve our respect and help.