Aboriginal run services are important to the community and Wyanga is no exception. Millie Ingram talks about Wyanga and the aspirations for Aboriginal aged care.
Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care Program is based in Cope Street Redfern. It was founded in 1996 by two Aboriginal Elders, Mrs Sylvia Ingram Scott (dec) from Cowra in Wiradjuri Country in Central NSW and Mrs Mary Silva from Kempsey in Dunghutti Country on the North Coast. Mary is still an active member of Wyanga and is active in the local community. The vision of these two women has resulted in a good quality of life for some Aboriginal Elders.
Wyanga is not residential care, it has over the years cared in the home for hundreds of Aboriginal Elders who otherwise would not have had a good quality of life. They want, and are entitled to have, good care and continued connection with family and mob.
Aboriginal people have been moving to Sydney for many decades, including in the 1800s, looking for work and a better quality of life to the one they were experiencing on Aboriginal reserves under the control of mission managers employed by the Aboriginal Protection Board or the churches. These managers had total control over the lives of those who lived on their missions, how they lived, what they ate, who they could marry, and at times, whether they could keep their children.
Nearly all of our Elders have living memories of those years. Many people over the decades fought for our human rights and our freedoms. It took a very long time, up until the 1970s following the protests and establishment of the Canberra Tent Embassy, before the people were consulted on what their needs were and how governments can act on meeting those needs. Most people wanted land rights and acknowledgement of prior ownership – that the country was not Terra Nullius. They wanted self-determination, with ownership of the programs and delivery of those programs. They wanted a good life for their families.
Today’s Aboriginal Elders are the ones who fought all those decades ago for our human rights in our country. They now want a good quality of life, living in safety, access to family and friends, and a way to be cared for when they can no longer live independently and care for themselves. They want Housing NSW to allow them to have family living with them if this is what they choose, family to live in and care for them instead of being put into a nursing home, which many regard as another institution.
Instead of large institutionalised nursing homes, they would prefer smaller group homes built in their community, run by community, paid for by governments, or on country so they can return home if they choose to. Most Aboriginal Elders do not have assets and cannot pay for their own care in their later years, yet many of them have worked most of their lives in low income jobs and paid their taxes.
They also want social inclusion which Wyanga and other Aboriginal organisations provide for them. The programs that are best received by Elders are those provided by Aboriginal run and controlled organisations. They also have the freedom to choose any mainstream program they wish, with full support from Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care Inc. You can find out more about Wyanga’s services at www.wyanga.org.au.