Program participants Samantha Watson (left), and daughter Sarah, 2, and Eva Masso, with daughter Jo-Kyren, 5 months, and Leanne Ruska.
Program participants Samantha Watson (left), and daughter Sarah, 2, and Eva Masso, with daughter Jo-Kyren, 5 months, and Leanne Ruska. David Nielsen

Birth ward is blessed

CLOUDS of smoke filled the Ipswich Hospital's maternity ward during a traditional Aboriginal purification ceremony.

Indigenous elders, mothers and community leaders gathered in the maternity ward of the Ipswich Hospital for the blessing this week.

Ipswich Hospital hosted the ceremony to finalise the launch of a special care program aimed at promoting the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies.

Child and Family Health Service nursing director Colleen Glenn said the program was designed to encourage indigenous parents to continue medical care through pregnancy and into their child's early life.

Ms Glenn said about 3% of the Ipswich population identified as being indigenous, and expected the program to cater for 90 to 100 mothers a year.

Samantha Watson was one of the program's first participants when she delivered daughter Sarah two years ago.

"This is my third baby, and it was a very different experience to when I had my other children," Ms Watson said.

"It was a lot better because you have the same midwife throughout the pregnancy and you also have an indigenous health worker so you feel very comfortable.

"Having Sarah was a lot less stressful and a lot more natural."

Birth suite nurse unit manager Janet Knowles said the burden of disease on indigenous Australians was about two-and-a-half times greater than on the wider population.

"Perinatal morbidity rates are three times higher for indigenous women and they are twice as likely to give birth to low-birth-weight infants," Ms Knowles said.

"The program provides a continuity of care for these women... we've increased the amount of antenatal care women are receiving in pregnancy."

Ms Knowles said the smoking ceremony and water blessing finalised the launch of the program by purifying a birth suite in readiness for births.

"As well as providing care we have made changes to our environment," Ms Knowles said.

"For example, the birth suites have been painted in colours identifiable as culturally significant."

The care program is named Naree Wuddung Kurrnung, which translates to Me, My Mum, My Mob, and has so far helped 26 mothers through their pregnancies.



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