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December 2018

Group of women jpeg The Community Reference Group for the development of the Aboriginal birth room at Barwon Health – (front) midwife Mandy Miller, Aboriginal health program manager Renee Owen, Madden Wathaurong community elder and midwife Aunty Athalie Madden, Wathaurong community elder and traditional owner Aunty Naomi Surtees, (back) Aboriginal policy and projects officer Libby Lesock, Aboriginal health liaison officer Renee Howell and artist Ammie Howell.

Artwork in birth suite jpeg

Artist Ammie Howell’s work represents the special and significant areas of the Wadawurrung Country.

Birth suite helps close the gap

Barwon Health has transformed a University Hospital Geelong birth suite into a welcoming, culturally-inclusive space for Aboriginal families.

The new birth suite is named Darrabarruk Pupup – new baby – and is an initiative to improve Barwon Health’s maternity experience for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Geelong.

There were 53 Aboriginal babies born at Barwon Health last financial year and even higher numbers expected in the future.

‘The Aboriginal community’s input and decision making has assured the development of the most appropriate physical and safe environment for our maternity patients and their families,’ said chief operating officer Amanda Cameron.

‘Getting maternity care right for Aboriginal women is critical to Closing the Gap and our goal at Barwon Health is to ensure our care is culturally safe and high quality.

‘We are committed to providing flexible, person-centred care, strengthened by Aboriginal cultural knowledge provided through our local Aboriginal community.

‘Our new birth suite adds a further dimension to this service, providing a symbolically spiritual connection to Wadawurrung land and Aboriginal culture, paying our respects to the traditional custodians of the land where Barwon Health operates today.’

Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-Op matched Barwon Health’s funding to support the project and Aboriginal midwife Aunty Athalie Madden said the maternity service team was pleased to be part of the joint project.

‘We have moved to a woman-focused culturally-sensitive midwifery care.

‘The Koorie Maternity Service team has strengthened its relationship with Barwon Health and this new Aboriginal birthing room will build on this relationship, providing another layer of kindness, love, support and midwifery care.

‘It’s important for Aboriginal women to feel safe and comfortable at a hospital because of past experiences with the Stolen Generation when women did not want to go to hospitals.’