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Health services make their apology permanent

Western Plains App

Lily Plass

09 June 2024, 3:40 AM

Health services make their apology permanentJason Conolly, Timonthy Chinn, Jan Arrowsmith, Jillian Thurston, Teresa Stanford. IMAGE: Lily Plass, Western Plains App

On Friday 31 May long-serving Aboriginal health staff Jan Arrowsmith, Jillian Thurston, and Teresa Stanford were on hand for the unveiling a plaque at the Coonamble Multipurpose Health Centre to officially commemorate the Stolen Generation . 

Western NSW Local Health District installed plaques in all 45 hospitals, health facilities and community health centres around the health district starting on Friday 24 May. 

The installations were expected to be completed in all facilities by 7 June. 

"We sincerely apologise for the role NSW Health had in the forced removal of Aboriginal children from our hospitals and institutions," Acting Health Services Manager John Alchin said. 

"We acknowledge the inconceivable pain and suffering experienced by those from the Stolen Generation themselves, and by the generations that came after whose families and communities are still impacted today. 

"The apology gives us the opportunity to move forward also as a community," Mr Alchin said. 

CAHS CEO Phil Naden and Acting HSM John Alchin. IMAGE: Lily Plass, Western Plains App

Members of the community, NSW Health Service, Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service (CAHS), Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) and local police attended the unveiling. 

Rhilee Astill from the Coonamble Public School gave the acknowledgment to country Gamilaroi to start off the ceremony, followed by a speech by CAHS CEO Phil Naden. 

Stolen Generation survivors Kevin 'Sooty' Welsh and Mary King were present as well. 

"I'd like to acknowledge the loss and the true story of this country," Ms King said. 

She said she hoped that when people walk past the plaque they try to be more considerate of what other people are going through. 

"Not think what's wrong with this person but to think about what's happened to them.

"Without an identity and without a home, you miss out on belonging and connection."

Survivors Mary King and Kevin (Sooty) Welsh. IMAGE: Lily Plass, Western Plains App

Ms King was taken as a child from her home in Walgett and only recently reunited with her family. 

She said she has been waiting for this moment for 55 years. 

"If you don't look at the past, you can't move forward," Mr Welsh said.

Mr Welsh was taken from his home at the age of five and did not see his family again until he was 15. 

Even then, he said the connection was not the same anymore. 

Only in recent years has Mr Welsh found a connection to Country again.

Within a short timeframe Jan Arrowsmith and Jillian Thurston organised many of the community coming together on Friday to watch the unveiling. 

"I hope that people know they've been recognised," Ms Arrowsmith said.