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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Signed agreement paves way for region’s first Aboriginal aged care facility

Local Aboriginal Elder Uncle Bill Smith says an historic signing is about making footprints in time.

Speaking at a gathering at Yamuloong in Garden Suburb today, the respected community member said the Memorandum of Understanding would pave a way forward for Aboriginals in Lake Macquarie and across the Hunter Region.

The signed agreement, which was between Awabakal Ltd and Biraban Local Aboriginal Land Council (BLALC), represented a commitment to build the region’s first culturally safe aged care facility.

The arrangement brings together land provided by Biraban LALC and medical care services provided by Awabakal.

“This is the most sacred moment of all,” Uncle Bill said.

“Not the one behind, not the one in front but right now because you made a decision to stand together.”

Awabakal deputy chair Ray Smith said the facility had been a goal within the local Aboriginal community for a long time.

“We are excited about the development and about the partnerships it creates,” he said.

“It’s time to step up. This is our opportunity to build bridges and go forward together.

The new facility, Mr Smith said, would include culturally safe elements.

“This is not just about brick walls, it’s also about tranquility.

“We want to create a great space for our elders and their families.

“[The facility] will include bush tucker gardens, permaculture, we’ll grow our own vegetables, and build a multi-purpose centre where the people can meet with their family and host gatherings.”

Biraban LALC chair Edward Smith, NSW Aboriginal Land Council councillor Abie Wright, Biraban LALC CEO Ashley Williams, Uncle Bill Smith, Awabakal CEO Raelene Gordon and deputy chair Awabakal Ray Smith.

The site for the aged care facility is yet to be finalised but Gidgee Group Chief Executive Sean Gordon, who will project manage the build, says west of Toronto is most likely.

“We’re looking at land holdings in Awaba, west of Toronto, between Toronto and the M1,” he said.

“The statistics show there is enough need in Newcastle and the Lake Macquarie area for this type of facility.”

Mr Gordon said the group, which specialised in partnerships advocating for improved outcomes for Indigenous people, had been working on a draft scope for six months.

“If all goes well we’d like to see the doors of the facility open in three years,” he said.

Stage one will be the creation of a residential care facility. This will be followed by provisions for independent living.

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Councillor Abie Wright, who attended Thursday’s event, said the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding was a symbolic commitment to the community’s elders.

“Today is an historic moment for our community,” he said.  “This is for the next generation and it means we are on the right path.”

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