NAIDOC WEEK – Art and medicine combine for improved health outcomes

Jul 5 2012

Her Excellency, The Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO will open a new Arts for Health exhibition at John Hunter Hospital on Friday night, which celebrates Gomeroi gaaynggal, a program designed to improve the health outcomes of expectant Aboriginal mums.

The Gomeroi gaaynggal program, led by Professor Roger Smith* and Dr Kym Rae**, was developed in association with Aboriginal community leaders to address reluctance by some Aboriginal expectant mums to seek medical care.

“To help overcome this, we wanted to create a welcoming environment where expectant mothers could access health related advice,” Professor Smith said.

“We developed an arts studio where expectant mothers can work on their art and at the same time talk to health practitioners about health issues including nutrition, diet and exercise.”

The artworks on display at John Hunter Hospital were created by Aboriginal mums in Tamworth and Walgett.

Dr Rae said that Community Elders also have the opportunity to pass on knowledge and share their own stories with younger mothers.

“The mums participate in research projects designed to develop new knowledge on why Aboriginal people develop kidney failure and diabetes at high rates,” Dr Rae said. “The Gomeroi gaaynggalprogram is a great example of art and medicine working together to improve the health and wellbeing of the community.”

John Hunter Hospital’s Arts for Health Coordinator Juliet Ackery said some of the artwork created by the mothers involved in the program would feature in the exhibition called ‘Connections’ at John HunterHospital.

“We know the powerful impact art can have on people and it is great to see how this can be harnessed to improve health outcomes for our Indigenous community,” Ms Ackery said.

“Some of the artworks combine material from the scientific aspects of the program with more traditional work in highly original ways.”

“We hope these artworks contribute to helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel welcome at John Hunter Hospital and to creating a culturally appropriate environment. We thank all of the talented mums who have participated in the program and who have generously allowed us to exhibit their works. We are fortunate to have them on display at John Hunter Hospital.”

* Professor Smith is Co-Director of the University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Sciences. ** Dr Rae is Gomeroi gaaynggal Program Coordinator at the Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre in Tamworth, part of the University of Newcastle’s Mothers and Babies Research Centre in the Faculty of Health. Both conduct research in collaboration with the HMRI Pregnancy and Reproduction Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

The official opening of Gomeroi gaaynggal ‘Connections’ Exhibition will take place in the Royal Newcastle Centre Foyer, John Hunter Hospital at 6pm on Friday 6 July 2012.

The official patron of the Gomeroi gaaynggal program, Her Excellency, Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of New South Wales, will open the exhibition.