Yarram and District Health Service marked Close the Gap Day today with a ceremony that featured a traditional smoking ceremony, Aboriginal dancers, a flag raising and the unveiling of five shields representing the clans of the Gunaikurnai people of Gippsland.

Uncle Lloyd Hood gave the ‘Welcome to Country’ before a large crowd of community and YDHS staff.

YDHS Chief Executive Officer, Paul Head, said the Closing the Gap ceremony at the front of the health service was a focus of the diversity and inclusion planning within YDHS to make services more culturally safe for Aboriginal people.

Mr Head said while Australians enjoyed one of the highest life expectancies and quality of life in the world, the same wasn’t true for all ethnic and cultural groups.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people face barriers in accessing proactive primary care resources to maintain wellbeing in addition to quality healthcare resources to support complex chronic health issues,” he said.

“Indigenous Australians face serious barriers to accessible and affordable healthcare. Close the Gap Day raises awareness about these issues and encourages meaningful change to help improve their health and wellness.

Mr Head said YDHS proudly supported the Close the Gap initiative.

“Over the next few months, our Community Advisory Committee will be working to understand the current experiences at YDHS for Aboriginal people and what can be done to ensure everyone in the community has the opportunity to achieve optimum health.

“These five shields will be a permanent reminder of the strength of Aboriginal Australians and the work we need to do together to address the inequities locally and beyond.”

Board Chair, Shaun Braybrook, led the group of men from the Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place in performing traditional dancers. Mr Braybrook encouraged the crowd to join the singing and there was a united voice.

Uncle Lloyd said later: “This is a perfect representation of reconciliation.”

ENDS