January 26 means different things to different people. To some it is a celebration of all the things we love about Australia. For Aboriginal people it is a day of mourning, of reflecting on the past and celebrating culture and resilience.

As a public hospital, Peter Mac is a welcoming and inclusive space for all people. We also recognise the leading role that Peter Mac must play in closing the health and life expectancy gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Ahead of World Cancer Day on 4 February, Peter Mac joins organisations across the globe to “Close the Care Gap”. This year’s theme aims to raise awareness of the equity gap that affects so many individuals and communities and costs the lives of those impacted by cancer.

Reflect, Respect, Celebrate

On January 26, 2022, the Aboriginal staff at Peter Mac have shared their perspectives of the day.

Reflect: Aboriginal people reflect on the wrongs of the past 234 years and the strength of our Ancestors. We remember our Ancestors who despite the harsh policies of the past, stood up and held onto culture and traditions, even when practicing culture and speaking language was prohibited. We acknowledge and admire their strength, courage, and commitment. We remember those who went to the Dreaming too soon in their fight for us.

Respect:  We respect all who came before us, who showed courage and fought for the freedoms we have today. We don’t blame our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, we seek the acknowledgement and respect of our culture and our 60,000+ years of tradition and resilience. Aboriginal people are the oldest continuous culture in the world and that is something we can all be proud of as Australians. We respect those leading the way towards a better tomorrow for our children.

Celebrate: As Aboriginal people, we celebrate our survival, our culture, our Ancestors, and our community.  We celebrate on this January 26, because we are still here, making ourselves heard and we are proud of who we are. 

Today we can all reflect on the past, respect one other and celebrate our culture together. 

About the featured artwork

The above is an original design by Marcus Lee Design for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Reconciliation Action Plan. 

This concept is a visual representation of a possum skin cloak symbolising Peter Mac as a place of protection, healing
and cultural safety. The background depicts a cloak that is laid out, showing the possum pelts sewn together.

The five outer coloured forms represent the bringing together of the five language groups of the Kulin Nation. These interconnecting shapes, and the radiating line work within, symbolise the communication lines between patients and staff, with staff listening to their patients. Pathways lead to the centre of the design, symbolising Peter Mac as the gathering place.

This concept visually expresses Peter Mac as a culturally safe place, providing First Nations cancer patients and their families with a sense of belonging, understanding, compassion, warmth and empathy.

The artwork was developed in close consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, RAP Working Group, patients and staff.