Pat Durnan, who worked with the Redfern
community for three decades, came to the rescue. She sold
her home which was owned by her family and her order, the
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. "I sold my house
in Araluen for $145,000 and gave it all to the Aboriginal
Medical Service. It was a bit hard to do, because I knew
one of my family needed money but I had to trust in God
looking after that", she said.
Over the years Sister Durnan worked closely
with former St Vincentís Parish Priest, Ted Kennedy, who
helped give the AMS its start. The chief executive and a
founding member of the AMS Naomi Mayers, said without Father
Kennedy's help it would have been difficult to expand the
service, which started in a small shop in 1971. "We
outgrew our first place and we were running around trying
to get money from the Government for a building but it was
Ted who let us use the old St Vincentís school, so we moved
into that," she said.
Father Kennedy opened up the old buildings,
rent free. That decision was later overruled by the Catholic
Church hierarchy, said Ms Mayers. "So Shirley [Aboriginal
elder Mum Shirl] organised for us to go in and fight the
decision. Ten of us went and stormed the bishops' conference.
When we got there, it was after lunch... we got taken out
back, had a meeting with a few of the bishops... and they
approved us a lease for one dollar a year," Ms Mayers
said. The deeds to the land and buildings were handed over
to the AMS and since then they have operated an award-winning
medical service from the former school.
They needed a purpose built centre and
spent years lobbying. Funding was recently approved and
the AMS will now officially open the new centre in December.
It has a medical and dental clinic, a drug and alcohol unit,
a public health and aged care program as well as office
space for administration. While the centre was being built
the AMS operated from old hospital buildings in Zetland.
The Medical Director of the AMS, John Daniels,
said the new building would let them deliver better quality
care; the other building was too small. "It was simply
a matter that we had too many staff in a building that was
built as a school not a medical centre," he said.
There are 130 similar services in Australia
and Sydney's Aboriginal Medical Service treats the most
patients but it is the second worst funded service in the
country said Ms Mayers. She has spent more than thirty years
working to improve Aboriginal health and this new building
represents an important milestone. "We were the first
service set up in Australia and out of all the major services
in Australia we were the last one to get a building - our
own building," she said.
The service is now operating from its new
premises. The official opening will be on December 3.
Sister Pat celebrating 50 years as a nun in February 2005.