A ceremonial land cleansing was held today on the site of the new $260 million Eurobodalla Regional Hospital Development, as part of an ancient Aboriginal tradition used to regenerate Country and prepare the land as a safe and welcoming place.
Led by Aboriginal Elders and knowledge holders on Yuin Country, the event included a traditional smoking ceremony and cultural burn and was the first to be carried out on a NSW hospital project site.
Yuin Elder Uncle Bunja Smith said cultural burning is an ancient fire practice which has been used by Aboriginal people for over 60,000 years.
“For millennia Aboriginal people managed the land through cultural burning - it was one of our farming and land management practices to care for Country and will help to restore the land to create a healthy foundation from which the new hospital can grow,” Uncle Bunja said.
“Cleansing the land is an integral part of our connection with Country to restore and rejuvenate the land spiritually, and today’s ceremony signifies that this hospital will be a healthy and safe place where the whole community can come to be healed.”
The new hospital’s design is being guided by local Aboriginal knowledge to build connections with Country including the use of Dhurga language to support wayfinding around the hospital campus and the inclusion of a Meeting Place.
Above: (R.) Uncle Bunja, Aunty Doris and (L.) Uncle Eddie with Dr Michael Holland (centre). Dr Holland has been a long term advocate and driving force behind the establishment of a Level Four regional hospital for the Eurobodalla. Via the original petitioning of the NSW Government and the relentless pressure of the One Eurobodalla Regional Hospital Group today's community focussed ceremony was a perfect alternate to the typical 'silver shovel' politician photo shoot of old.
Dr Holland told The Beagle "This morning I was privileged to attend the welcome to Country, smoking ceremony and cultural burning on the site of the new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital. This was a day to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the new hospital will be built. It was a day which signified recognition and reconciliation between our cultures." "It is the most significant day of the new hospital project, far outweighing future symbolic ground breaking. I look forward to the commencement of works and the completion of a new Regional Hospital for the Eurobodalla which will complement the South East Regional Hospital Bega. It is a personally significant day in my career after 20 years of medical service to the community and a new career as their local representative", Dr Holland, now the Member for Bega, said.
The Eurobodalla cultural burn was performed ahead of work commencing on site later this year, by a team led by local Aboriginal cultural burn practitioner Andrew White, from the Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Council who has been conducting cultural burns in the Eurobodalla and surrounding region for more than 10 years.
The Eurobodalla Regional Hospital will support core clinical services to be delivered at a role delineation Level Four and will provide more health services than are currently available at both the Moruya and Batemans Bay hospitals combined, as well as an overall boost to bed capacity.
Early works are expected to commence in late 2022, with main works construction scheduled to commence in 2023. The hospital is expected to open to patients in 2025.
The new hospital is part of the NSW Government’s record $11.9 billion investment in health infrastructure over four years to 2025-26, with nearly a third of the capital allocation in this financial year going towards regional and rural health facilities.
For more information about the new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital development please visit the project website: www.eurobodallahs.health.nsw.gov.au