Painted stories of health and healing

  • Artwork of lines of orange, greens and blues by Dr Treahna Hamm for Benalla Health

Artwork by Dr Treahna Hamm for Benalla Health

Benalla Health
Greg van Popering,
Operational Director of Healthy Communities

In the heart of Benalla in north-east Victoria, a captivating project was set into motion in late 2022 – the Benalla Health Aboriginal Art Project. The call went out for an artist who could capture the essence of the community, an artist with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander roots. The mission was clear: to create art that would embrace the soul of the health service and grace its very heart.

In answer to this call, Dr Treahna Hamm stepped forward, a native of Benalla with a lifelong connection to its heartbeat. Her art had graced murals and public spaces before, but this was different. This was about weaving the stories of health and healing into strokes of paint, about making the walls breathe with the aspirations of the community.

Guided by the values of Benalla Health, Treahna embarked on a journey of creation. Four paintings emerged, each a canvas of hope and dedication. In the lines of those artworks lay the imprints of hands – symbols of the staff's commitment to the community they serve. These handprints told a silent story of care, a narrative of healing that transcended words.

The art danced with the echoes of Aboriginal culture, entwined with the curves of Benalla's landscape. Every hue held a meaning – healing, unity, wellbeing and the promise of a healthier generation. The waters and mountains of Benalla became not just scenery, but a part of the art's heartbeat, connecting the health service to its roots.

For the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, this journey held unique challenges. The life expectancy gap of 15–20 years was a stark reminder of the work ahead. But the artwork wasn't just paint; it was a conversation starter, a beacon of health and wellbeing. It was a place where community and health could merge, where stories of personal and communal health could find a safe space.

The brushstrokes found a new canvas, not just on the walls but on shirts worn by the staff. These shirts weren't just uniforms; they were a statement of unity, a pledge to carry the values of the health service in every step. The designs by Dr Hamm weren't just patterns; they were a symbol of inclusivity, of a shared vision for better health.

As time went on, the art became more than just visuals; it became a catalyst for conversations, a bridge between communities. It became a space where trust and healing could intertwine, a visual reminder of the shared journey toward better health.

With every stroke, every hue, the Benalla Health Aboriginal Art Project told a story – a story of unity, resilience and progress. It wasn't just art; it was a testament to the power of culture and health coming together. As the journey unfolded, it became clear that these paintings weren't just decorations; they were a living pulse, a heartbeat that echoed with the hopes of a community, dreaming of a healthier, happier tomorrow for all.

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