By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
Goranwarrabul House at Seymour Health will next week celebrate its 10-year milestone of helping the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents improve their health and wellbeing and connect with community.
Aboriginal health project officer Rebecca Welsh, who founded the project 11 years ago while working inside the hospital, will mark the occasion with an open house and photo and documentary video exhibition from Monday August 23 to Friday August 27, pending eased COVID-19 restrictions.
She will also close a time capsule to be put on display for another 10 years, opening in 2031.
“That’s what this week is about, to not only see all the photos and have a trip down memory lane, but to come in and have a look at what’s happening in this space and how it does contribute to Aboriginal health and wellbeing,” she said.
“The video also helps us not only tell this story but to advocate for the future.”
Goranwarrabul House offers various health and wellbeing workshops, services, training, information sessions and groups to educate and improve health issues, barriers to care and outcomes for the Mitchell and Murrindindi communities.
It started as a program within Seymour Health, but after collecting feedback from communities about how many seek Aboriginal-specific services, Ms Welsh campaigned for the hospital to take over an unused residential building on campus and turn it into a First Nations safe space.
“We’ve got to think about historical factors: hospital settings, police settings, court settings, DHS settings, they haven’t been pleasant spaces for our people in the past, so to be able to offer a neutral safe space for community to use and move forward and heal, that’s what this place can to for them,” she said.
“The other feedback was there was no Aboriginal anything in the shires or these towns so the community said they would really benefit from having a place of some kind that they felt they could come to see me and have yarns with me or to meet or run groups.”
Within a year Ms Welsh had gone from struggling to engage or reach Aboriginal people within the community, to seeing huge demand for the house. And although the project was only slated for four years, its positive impact has seen it last.
“In terms of the impact it’s had on our community, it’s really brought us together,” she said.
“It’s helping not only form connections but to raise the profile of Aboriginal people by an Aboriginal community, and also to help raise awareness about the health issues that we struggle with.
“[Demand] has definitely increased over the years and it still increases as the years go on for the very fact that people have said, we knew you were there but we didn’t need you, but we need you now.”
Ms Welsh said the milestone was personally significant for her and her family based in Seymour, as well as the wider community.
“Why it’s important for us to celebrate this is also to let people know we’re here,” she said.
“Let’s make some noise about some genuine investments back into our community. [Rather than] pushing funding to where the big community population groups are or the big community organisations are, how about we look at the towns in between and the communities in between?”
Ms Welsh said in 10 years when the time capsule opens, she hoped the house would be fully-funded, permanent and able to create employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“It’s a reminder that we’ve been here for 10 years. Let’s be here for another 10 years as well,” she said.
The exhibition and open house will run from 10am to 3pm daily from August 23 to 27. Anyone who has been touched or helped by Goranwarrabul House is welcome to bring a small object or photo to be added to the time capsule by Wednesday, August 18.