• Health worker Kirsten Gallagher shows off a plaster cast of a pregnant belly. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
Expectant Indigenous mothers in Mount Isa are using art to get men more involved in their pregnancies.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

24 Jun 2016 - 2:41 PM  UPDATED 24 Jun 2016 - 2:44 PM

Mount Isa's Sister to Sister antenatal class is inspiring women to sculpt, paint and create a plaster cast of their pregnant bellies, and getting their partners to join in.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health worker Kirsten Gallagher said the program, which meets once a week at the Ngukuthati Children and Family Centre, also helped to address relationship issues and domestic violence.

"Our program that we run is women's business, [and] it's actually teaching the women how to deal with their relationships in a more suitable way that doesn't lead to domestic violence, and makes them feel more empowered," Ms Gallagher told the ABC.

Bellycasting involves covering the pregnant belly in cling wrap, and then using bandages and plaster to make a cast.

Once it is dry the mums-to-be can paint or decorate the sculpture as a way of bonding with their partners and children. 

"Bellycasting is the art of pregnancy, so we originally decided to do this on the Aboriginal girls to help bring families together, especially mums and the dads closer," Ms Gallagher said.

"It gives them a chance to show off their skills and gets them to show and tell a story of who they are.

"A lot of these girls are having kids and a couple of years down the track it's good to look back and just remember, 'Oh, that's how big I was', and have that bonding with their children."

Kerri O'Connor, the Mount Isa Nurse Unit Manager of Maternal, Child and Youth Health said the Sister to Sister program also helped Indigenous families to celebrate pregnancy in a way they might not otherwise.

"For a lot of the Indigenous women that the program works with, pregnancy is not celebrated, pregnancy is just a fact of life - it's something that just happens," she told the ABC.

"Bellycasting is one way of getting that celebration happening, getting the father involved and making it real and connecting the health of the baby into a reality."

The program also teaches participants about sexual health, emotional health, and nutrition, including hands-on cooking classes.