When Stephanie Yikaniwuy Dhamarrandj, Dipililnga Marika and Darren Wanybarrnga set out on their very different paths to become Aboriginal Health workers they would not have expected to have their portrait on show in the National Gallery of Australia! But, thanks to photographer Renae Kilmister they featured in the powerful exhibition, “Unsung Heroes”, at the Gallery in November 2016. Unsung Heroes has toured to Brisbane as well and there are plans to show it in Sydney in the near future.
Sponsored by NATSIHWA, the exhibition presented 30 portraits of NATSIHWA members who deliver and enable access to vital, safe and responsive health care to their people and communities. Opening the exhibition, NATSIHWA Chairperson Josslyn Tully acknowledged the demanding role played by Aboriginal Health Workers in their communities: “Unlike other professions that get to go home at the end of the day the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers/Health Practitioners live and breathe the community and community members rely on them after-hours too.”
For Renae the story is in the faces and she is full of admiration for them. She says: “These people are the glue! They are the faces of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health; they are the conduits between community and mainstream health. They are the first point of call, the ones who are trusted and relied upon in the communities. They are the ones monitoring conditions, reminding about check ups, encouraging healthier living to increase life expectancy, and out in the communities they don’t do this on a 9-5 rotation, this is their life and it’s time that they were recognised.”
Renae Kilmister’s beautiful photographs capture the deep experience of senior Aboriginal Health Workers and the hope for change reflected by their younger colleagues just commencing their careers. Her portraits are a fitting tribute to their important work.