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Oar finds new home on dry land

Amanda Jones

17 May 2018: A piece of art symbolising the relationship between Ngunnawal Elders, University of Canberra researchers and the Whanganui District Health Board in New Zealand has been unveiled at the new University of Canberra Hospital.

The oar (or hoe in Maori language) painted by artist Reneti Tapa from the Te Atihau-nui- a –Paparangi tribe, was part of a cultural gift exchange that took place between the University, the Whanganui District Health Board and their Māori health services team (Te Hau Ranga Ora) in July last year.

The relationship centres around a continuing research project funded by the University of Canberra Collaborative Indigenous Research Initiative (UC-CIRI). Led by the University’s Ngunnawal Elder in Residence Aunty Roslyn Brown, the restorative healthcare team is researching restorative healthcare practices in hospital settings.

Restorative practice is a strengths-based relational approach which aims to give voice, respect, acknowledgement, accountability and healing value to the most vulnerable involved in healthcare to benefit all people.

Chief Investigator and Senior Lecturer in Nursing Holly Northam said the unveiling builds on a 2015 proposal for the ACT to become a restorative community.

“At the core of this project is the intent that Aboriginal peoples’ voices are heard in the hospital setting to bridge the Indigenous and non-Indigenous gap in life expectancy and to benefit all people,” Dr Northam said.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to enable powerful cultural wisdom to centre healthy relationships in the work of the new hospital.

“These gifts represent shared hopes for the well-being of all who come to the new University of Canberra Hospital.”

The event, which was attended by Maori Elders and health leaders from Whanganui, included a cultural blessing and smoking ceremony.

The oar can be seen near the Clinical Education and Research Centre entrance to the hospital. The University of Canberra Hospital opens to the public in July.

Watch our video below: