First Nations cancer patients find solace in comfort quilts

17 Apr 2024

A timeless art form, comfort quilts, intricately woven with cultural symbolism and stitched together with threads of compassion, hold a profound significance in the lives of First Nations cancer patients. These quilts serve as tangible expressions of support, wrapping individuals in warmth, love, and a sense of belonging during their most vulnerable moments.

In an effort to provide emotional comfort and support to First Nations patients during their cancer journey, generous donors have provided funding for renowned indigenous artist Aunty Marlene Young Scerri to create 13 comfort quilt packs.

Creating each of the uniquely designed packs takes Aunty Marlene approximately one week. Each pack features a carry bag, a quilt, a hand towel, and a matching face washer as well as some information from the Cancer Council.

PHOTO: Indigenous artist and quilt maker Aunty Marlene Young Scerri with St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne Cancer Services Nurse Unit Manager, John Mcpherson

Aunty Marlene said she hopes the quilt packs will bring joy and comfort to someone during a not so happy situation. “That’s why I call them comfort quilts. I started quilting 23 years ago. One of my most special quilts was the one I made for my niece about nine years ago when she was going through treatment for cancer. She was just 11 years old. She would put the quilt over her head to transport her to somewhere else.”

The designs, which are all different, are aimed to suit both women and men. “I try to mix up the colours, patterns, and designs. I always like it to be individual so that it’s exclusively for that person.”

PHOTO: A selection of the quilt packs.

Aunty Marlene has always wanted to be there to see the reaction of a patient receiving their quilt pack. She was given the opportunity to meet with a patient, Sandra, recently at St Vincent’s Day Oncology Centre. “Sandra was quite stunned when she received the quilt. She was really pleased. She loved the design, and she couldn’t believe she was being given something for nothing.”

Aunty Marlene believes the quilts are a way to show that St Vincent’s is culturally sensitive to our First Nations patients. “This act of kindness also helps to alleviate the sense of mistrust some First Nations patients can feel about being in a hospital environment.”

PHOTO: Aunty Marlene with her great-granddaughter Autumn and St Vincent's patient, Sandra. 

Melina Talanis, Director of St Vincent's Foundation (acting) said, “On behalf of St Vincent’s Foundation, we want to thank our generous donors for supporting the creation of the comfort quilt packs. We hope they will provide a tangible source of comfort and support to our First Nations cancer patients.”

PHOTOS: Other artwork from Aunty Marlene's collection. 


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