community,

An Indigenous cultural kit developed for the Albury Wodonga Health maternity ward is “just the beginning” of a stronger relationship between midwives and the local community. About four per cent of women who give birth locally identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, or identify their babies as such. The Koori Maternity Service, which is now in its 20th year, supports the pre- and post-natal care of women. On the border, the KMS program involves Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation and Albury-Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service. KMS support worker Shree Heland had conversations with local women about their wish to have a more cultural environment for birth, and contacted AWH birth suite nursing unit manager Siobhan Mckenna. “When I lived in Shepparton, Rumbalara did a birthing suite there, so I thought we could have something here,” she said. “It wasn’t until last year we decided we needed to do something. “It’s a cultural kit they [midwives] can put up and then take down. “I spoke to a lot of women to see what they would like in the suite. “I got some essential oils and some ochre so when women have their baby and want to get photos done, they can paint on their babies and themselves.” Artwork created by Barkindji/Maraura/Yorta Yorta woman Tamara Murray feature strongly in paintings, pillowcases and blankets in the kit. “In the centre of one painting is the birthing tree, with dots connecting mother and baby and it branches off into the rest of the community, and there’s new journeys as mums,” she said. Photos of birthing trees on country now known as Albury are also in the cultural kit. IN OTHER NEWS: The large trees were hollowed out by fire and provided a safe place for women to give birth. Operational director of women’s and children’s services Julie Wright said the creation of such a kit was overdue. “I’m looking forward to this not just being the start – it’s taken a long time to get to this point – but an ongoing relationship so we can continue to improve our offering to local Aboriginal women,” she said.

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