Bringing a child into hospital can be stressful for any parent but it can be especially confronting for Aboriginal families because of the history of forcible removal of children from their mothers when they went into hospital. Creating healing and welcoming spaces is critical for Aboriginal children and their families to feel safe within Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) facilities.
To welcome Aboriginal children and their families, SCHN’s Aboriginal Health Strategic Program is aimed at creating culturally appropriate, safe spaces and Acknowledgement of Country signs.
As part of this approach, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation (SCHF) supported the facelift of the Aboriginal Children’s Memorial Garden at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead to create a healing and reconciling space for patients, families, and staff to remember children who have passed away and those who were removed from their families.
The new-look garden, which was officially relaunched on Close the Gap Day in March 2021, includes the installation of a boulder from Dharruk and Gundungurra land in the Blue Mountains, Australian native plants, and a plaque acknowledging the Burramattagal people, the Traditional Custodians of the Dharruk Nation land on which the Hospital stands. A poem from Dharruk Nation Elder Aunt Edna Watson is displayed alongside a formal Apology from the Hospital for the part it played in the removal of Aboriginal children.
Brinae, mum of patient Durakai, describes the importance of the garden after doctors told her they couldn’t guarantee Durakai’s recovery.
“I collapsed in this park crying alone because I told everyone I needed space. I asked my grandmother in the Dreamtime to help me and give me answers. The next morning, I had a message from my cousin that a friend, who can speak to people in the Dreamtime, had told her that my grandmother had shared a message that Durakai’s spirit hadn’t left his body, he was still very much with us. A few weeks later, I found out this park was the Aboriginal Children’s Memorial Garden.”