Heal country, teach children: elders offer NAIDOC Week advice

Yarns were had by the fire pit at Tumake Yande, an elders’ meeting house in Murray Bridge, on Wednesday.

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Jack and Gwen Crombie are famous these days.

You might have seen them on your telly last week, on an ad for Dementia Australia.

Mr Crombie doesn’t talk as much these days, so it’s Mrs Crombie who’ll tell you about the adventures the couple have had in their lifetime together: the Yankunytjatjara man who made a name for himself as a rodeo rider, and apparently even inspired a Slim Dusty song; and the pastoralists’ daughter who met him while she was nursing at Coober Pedy.

Both were awarded OAMs in 2019 for their community work, which included setting up an aged care home in the desert town, developing cultural training packages for Aboriginal people who had grown up in the bush, and working at the prison in Port Augusta.

They moved to Murray Bridge more recently, and found themselves sitting around a fire pit at Tumake Yande – the elders’ drop-in house on Joyce Street – for a NAIDOC Week event on Wednesday.

This year’s NAIDOC theme is “heal country”.

Considering their life experience, the Crombies and the others sitting around the fire had thoughts to offer.

Educating people about the importance of connection to country needed to come first, Mrs Crombie said.

For example, the elders around Coober Pedy had been pained by the pockmarked opal mining landscape.

“You can fill (mine shafts) in but you can’t ever take it back to the way it was before,” she said.

“You can get rid of acne, but you can’t get rid of the scars.

“The first step is getting it healed to the point where there is a scar, then you can address that.”

Teaching young people about customs and traditions was important, said Freda A’Hang as she warmed her feet by the fire.

Even learning something as simple as how to make a good damper – without kneading the dough too much, apparently – encouraged respect for elders.

“A simple life – that’s the best life,” she said.

“Get involved in sport – that’ll keep them out of mischief.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for young people these days, more than when I was younger.”

Eighty-two-year-old Addy Smith had some general life advice: listen to your parents.

Dorothy Wilson said children needed to be brought up to be kind-hearted, and to help others.

That way they’d wind up as happy as the generation that sat yarning around the fire pit: “us old girls, we just like to sit and gossip, laugh and talk, and reminisce about the old years,” she said.

NAIDOC health care heroes celebrated

The local health authorities who run Tumake Yande took advantage of the NAIDOC Week open day to present awards to several workers.

Services assistant Chris Herzich was recognised for his outstanding contribution to the Murray Bridge hospital’s housekeeping team over more than 12 years, making sure Aboriginal patients felt welcome, happy and safe.

Despite being relatively new in her role, Aboriginal partnerships project officer Tahlia Lloyd’s enthusiastic demeanour earned her a champion of reconciliation award.

Members of the hospital’s Aboriginal maternity and infant care team were also named champions of reconciliation for educating other staff about cultural protocols and advocating for expectant mothers who wanted to give birth on country.

Nurse Tori Wilson was recognised for her caring, kind nature and commitment to excellence.