CENTRAL Gippsland Health (CGH) held a Flag Raising Ceremony at the front of Sale Hospital on Monday to mark NAIDOC Week.

Staff and community came together as one for the event, which celebrated and recognised the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

CGH Koori Liaison Officer, Sandra Neilson, performed the Welcome to Country. CGH staff then raised the flags, and over a dozen Aboriginal children performed a traditional dance.

Ms Neilson said the Aboriginal Flag was a sign of celebration and an important symbol.

“Aboriginal people believe if people are flying or displaying an Aboriginal Flag, it’s a sign that they feel welcome and are cared about,” Ms Neilson said.

“It makes us feel proud to see our flag flying.”

The colours of the flag are red, yellow and black. The red represents the ochre colour of the earth and the relationship that Aboriginal people have with the land. The yellow represents the sun as the giver of life. The black represents the Aboriginal people of Australia.

The flag became an official Australian flag under the Keating Government in 1995, along with the Torres Strait Islander Flag.

Lynette Bishop spoke on behalf of the local Aboriginal community and CGH Board chair, Jim Vivian spoke on behalf of the health service.

“NAIDOC is now a week of celebration, and I’m really excited to be at the hospital at the flag raising today,” Ms Bishop said.

Ron Leatham, a local Aboriginal man, and CGH chief executive Mark Dykgraaf jointly judged the Aboriginal Art Competition, held annually between CGH departments/hospitals and aged care facilities, with the winner receiving a painting purchased from the Ramahyuck Arts and Craft Shop.

Coincidentally, the painting selected as the prize was by Deborah Leon, a former member of the CGH Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee.

Mr Dykgraaf said he was particularly proud of initiatives that demonstrated how CGH was living this year’s theme of ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’

This includes the ongoing Aboriginal traineeship program; the appointment of a Koori Liaison Officer, the continuous running of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee making key decisions within the health service, an organisation-wide Reconciliation Action Plan; celebrating key cultural dates; and shortly, the renaming of meeting rooms to significant Gunai Kurnai language.

“This list is a small example of just some of the work that goes in day-in-day-out to take steps to become heroes and champions of change, of equal rights and even basic human rights,” Mr Dykgraaf said.

Ramahyuck dancers perform in front of Sale Hospital for NAIDOC Week.

Central Gippsland Health Koori Liaison Officer, Sandra Neilson performed the Welcome to Country.

Jayda Green, Sharlene Edwards and Ron Leatham raise the flags.