A Taungurang woman has revealed doctors instantly assumed her father was an alcoholic during a medical emergency, and repeatedly asked about his drinking habits while he was writhing in pain.
The Yoorrook Justice Commission on Friday heard the stories of Taungurung Elder Uncle Larry Walsh, with support from his daughter Isobel Paipadjerook Morphy-Walsh speaking on issues including forced child removal, policing, health and the criminal justice system.
It is the second block of the wurrek tyerrag (public hearings), beginning on Friday 20 May, ending this Friday 27 May.
Ms Morphy-Walsh told the commission her “light skin” had enabled her to be heard by police and health workers who she claims ignored her Stolen Generations father.
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“Why is it that a 30-year-old light-skinned woman is worth listening to more about someone else’s body than the human themselves,” she said.
“I am my father’s carer and attend his doctor’s appointments because a doctor does not take my father seriously.
“It makes me so angry…But that’s why I go with dad, because quite often dad will be trying to say something, and people will just ignore him and talk to me about his health care.”
When her father was on the verge of having a pancreatitis attack, Ms Morphy-Walsh said she was “asked 15 times in emergency” if he was an alcoholic.
“I was like, no, no, we’re pretty sure he has gallstones that are causing his pancreatitis like the doctor said he hasn’t had a drink for three or four months,” she said.
Ms Morphy said once Uncle Larry started having a pancreatitis attack, she had to leave, and he was fast-tracked to surgery.
But she said the hospital lost her dad’s filing system “twice and left him in a room for four days”.
“No food, no water, waiting for emergency surgery,” Ms Morphy said.
Ms Morphy-Walsh also told the commission that she continues to hold the “privilege” of being a light-skinned First Nations woman, which can impact how the police treat her.
“My privilege is that I’m light-skinned, and I don’t get picked up by police unless I’m with my cousins or my family,” she said.
“We’re talking about four to five years ago; we’re not talking about historic old events that make us all feel nice.”
Yoorrook Justice Commission chair and Wergaia/Wamba Wamba Elder Eleanor Bourke said the second block of the public hearings was focused on Elders’ experiences.
“Yoorrook’s work is guided by and grounded in the cultural authority of Elders, which is why we have prioritised hearing their evidence in the first two blocks of wurrek tyerrang,” she said.
“In each case, however, their truth-telling vividly illustrated experiences and themes that resonate through so many First People in Victoria and echo through the history of the place now called Australia.”
Ms Bourke said these hearings helped create a public record based on the stories of First People’s experiences.
“Today, truth-telling is ensuring stories of injustice and trauma, strength and resilience are not lost and that a new public record that includes the voices of First People is created,” she said.
The Wurrek tyerrang is a Wergaia word for speaking together.
The Yoorrook’s interim report is due by June 30.
- Story by Youssef Saudie