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9 February 2021
Trish Woodcock works as an Allied Health Assistant in Austin Health’s Social Work department, and volunteers at the Office of the Public Advocate helping to safeguard the rights and interests of people with disability. It was only last year that Trish was inspired to create traditional Indigenous art.
The catalyst for Trish picking up her paintbrush, is a deeply personal family story.
“My mother is a Wiradjuri woman from Dubbo. She is part of the Stolen Generations and was taken before she turned two. She doesn’t remember any of her family.
“When she was younger, the government refused her treatment for a hernia because she's Indigenous.”
Trish explains that the untreated hernia compounded with the pneumonia her mother had experienced last year resulted in her becoming very unwell and requiring hospitalisation at Austin Health.
“Mum was also experiencing delirium and she told me ‘you’ll never believe it, I saw my mum today as plain as day, she was standing by the river next to our humpy'.”
A humpy is a traditional temporary shelter made of trees, branches and bark.
“She hadn’t seen her mother since she was a very small child. This had me in tears and stirred something in me.
“The fact that had this memory, the injustice of being taken, how horrendous it would have been for her parents and her family unit, who had their children ripped from their arms.”
Trish says that her mother is doing much better with her health, and that the staff at Austin Health have been wonderful in providing culturally appropriate care to her.
“This experience lit a fire in me, through my art I want people to stop and reflect on the Stolen Generations.
“The people who experienced these injustices first-hand are still alive and in our community.
“Their hurt has caused a ripple effect, and the trauma, sadness and distrust of government organisations has been passed on from generation to generation. This has had a huge impact on our community.
“Imagine being my mother, no childhood photos, no connection with her biological family and a loss of connection to one’s history, traditions and culture.
“I would like people to understand the direct link between these traumas and why there is a gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people when it comes to health and life expectancy.”
Trish says that her mother and her two boys are very proud of her work, and they encourage her to continue creating.
“I look forward to sharing my artwork, and I want to help build a greater appreciation for our culture and better understanding of our recent history,” Trish says.