Aboriginal newborn introduced to culture in first yarning circle at Westmead Hospital’s Cultural Gathering Place

New mum Anne-Shirley Braun and baby Amelia, Kiralee Moss and Uncle Elvis performing the welcoming ceremony.

Six-week-old Amelia has already been immersed in her Aboriginal culture during a special smoking ceremony and “yarning circle” at Westmead Health Precinct’s new Cultural Gathering Place during Reconciliation Week.

Amelia’s mum, Anne-Shirley Brown, was cared for during pregnancy through the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Dragonfly midwifery program and said she was touched by the welcoming ceremony performed for her daughter.

“It was a nice day to come out here, meet the elders and get Amelia involved in her first cultural activity,” Anne-Shirley said.

“Amelia is six weeks old and it has been a great journey with the midwifery team.

“Being a new mum is a big learning curve and the support of the midwives has been a great help. They taught me what to expect after giving birth and how to breastfeed. I am very grateful to have had their support from the start until after I gave birth. ”

Dragonfly midwife Georgie, Anne-Shirley Braun and baby Amelia.

The special ceremony was held at the start of WSLHD’s first “yarning circle”, bringing together local Aboriginal elders to discuss health needs of communities and potential partnership for research purposes.

A yarning circle means “to get together in a sacred space and talk” and is a traditional cultural Aboriginal practice, stemming from the custom of creating sacred places to discuss business and build respectful relationships.

The Cultural Gathering Place has been designed in consultation with the local Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal Liaison officers to serve as a safe space for all hospital visitors.

Aboriginal Elder Uncle Elvis performing the smoking ceremony at the Cultural Gathering Place.

Clinical midwife consultant Sarah Melov stressed the importance of asking the Aboriginal community about their health needs, instead of advising what had to be improved.

“This model of communication contributes to building open and trusting relationships and improving health outcomes,” Sarah said.

“The elders enjoyed themselves at their new cultural gathering place.

“The connection and conversation with the community were great and we will continue to work on it – the next step would be an only-women yarning circle.”

The smoking ceremony will be held every six months to welcome all the new babies born through the Dragonfly midwifery program in western Sydney.

Aboriginal Elder Uncle Elvis and Kiralee Moss performing the smoking ceremony for Anne-Shirley Braun and baby Amelia.

The Dragonfly midwifery program provides continuity of care for Aboriginal mums in western Sydney. Aimed to improve health outcomes for mums and bubs, it offers educational sessions and conversations about different aspects of motherhood.

WSLHD has the largest population of Aboriginal people living within NSW and the program seeks to help address the fact Aboriginal women and babies continue to experience higher rates of mortality and morbidity compared to non-Aboriginal women and babies.

To learn more about the Dragonfly midwifery program, please contact the caseload office on 02 8890 9129.