Rebecca Clarke from the Midwifery Group Practice had experienced first hand the attitudes and fears of hospitals held by some of the local community. Rebecca was supporting a young mother throughout her pregnancy in the community when the therapeutic relationship ceased abruptly towards the end of the pregnancy. On further investigation Rebecca discovered that the woman had a relative pass away in hospital so was fearful of infection and illness in the hospital setting. For many indigenous women, hospitals are a place of death and illness. Rebecca contacted us at Birthplace to collaborate on a solution.
By providing a culturally appropriate space through community engagement and consultation the following goals were identified.
Short Term Goals
- Increase positive attitude in the community indigenous hospital birthing.
- Demonstrate an inclusive relationship with local community groups and families through consultation and creation of an appropriate space.
- Highlight the consultative process with health professional, local elders, mothers and community members that the hospital used to create the birthing suite
Long Term Goals
- Increase attendance for birth
- Encourage a positive relationships with local families.
- Promote safe and culturally sensitive space for women to birth.
- Increase likelihood of attendance for mothers to birth.
- Increase health outcomes for mothers and babies.
Traditional Owners-The Traditional Owners of much of Redland City, collectively known as the Quandamooka People, have lived on the lands and seas surrounding Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) for at least 21,000 years. The Quandamooka People represent three distinct tribes: the Nughie of Moorgumpin (Moreton Island) and the Noonuccal and Gorenpul of Minjerribah.
Indigenous Birth Suite Focus Group– Liaising with local indigenous community groups highlighted a number if factors to consider when creating a culturally appropriate space. Where possible indigenous personals and businesses were engaged to contribute.
Lighting– Low lights are essential to support the normal stage of birthing so variable lighting was sourced to provide appropriate levels of lighting in the birth suite.
Wall Mural – Shara Delaney is an Aboriginal contemporary artist from Quandamooka country. She was engaged to create a wall mural that reflected local culture and birthing women. Her mural depicts a mother and baby surrounded by water patterns and designs. She used gold, teals and blues to reflect the bayside environment and compliment the fabric choice.
Fabric Furnishings– Research shows us that women that birth in a home like environment are more likely to have a positive experience. Home like elements were introduced to the room by including soft furnishings in the design brief. cushions and a bed throw Fabric was sourced in Alice springs to reflect the local history and culture of the Quandamooka people featuring dugong, whales and turtles. The fabric was sourced from an ethical manufacturer that support local artists.
Smoke Ceremony– A local elder was invited to the new birth suite to perform a smoke ceremony. A smoking ceremony is an ancient aboriginal custom in Australia that involves burning various native plants to produce smoke, which has cleansing properties and the ability to ward off bad spirits from the people and the land and make pathway for a brighter future.
Textile Art & Photography – A local Photographer Mirium Ackroyd arranged photographs of a mother and baby at the local sacred birthing site Brown Lake. Brown Lake is very significant to the people of Quandamooka. The Aboriginal people of the Brown Lake area, the Quandamooka people, associate the area very strongly with women and children, only women can speak for Brown Lake and women are responsible by Law to care for manage the lake and its resources. It is know as a place of women’s business. Birthplace used fabric elements sourced from Alice Springs to reflect the rooms local indigenous area theme in a framed art piece.
Minimal hospital equipment / discreet storage– Excess medical equipment was removed from the room and the necessary birthing equipment and monitors were thoughtfully arranged within the room so as not to obstruct the view of the mural. Curtains were used to create discreet storage under a counter area allowing easy access.
Coolamon Weighing Scales– A local staff member crafted a coolamon (shield) to be used to weigh the babies. The coolamon is traditionally used to collect berries. The wood was sourced from a local gum tree and finished with hand painted traditional patterns and designs. The connection to land is represented here with the baby laying here to be weighed. This coolamon weighing scales has proved very popular among families that birth at the hospital and is often requested for a photo opportunity.
Music– Culturally appropriate music was sourced and bluetooth speakers allow women to listen to their own music.
Crib Sheets – Crib Sheets using ethically sourced fabric were created by Birthplace.
Culturally safe birth suite making new mums more comfortable -Metro South Queensland Health Article
Culturally appropriate maternity care crucial for indigenous women’s wellbeing- HealthTimes Magazine