• A mother and child from the Waijungbah Jarjums program get painted by elders on the Gold Coast for the first Welcome Baby to Country Smoking Ceremony. (NITV News. )Source: NITV News.
An Indigenous midwifery program in south-eastern Queensland is helping mothers and babies in their first 1000 days of life.
Douglas Smith

8 Nov 2020 - 11:55 AM  UPDATED 8 Nov 2020 - 12:25 PM

Thirty newborn babies were welcomed to Country with a smoking ceremony on Thursday as a part of an Indigenous midwifery program caring for mums and bubs through pregnancy and their first 1000 days. 

The Waijungbah Jarjums midwifery service at the Gold Coast University has been up and running since January this year and has already made a big difference in the lives of Indigenous families.  

Last week, the service held its first-ever smoking and Welcome Baby to Country ceremony, which saw babies receive a smoking cleanse and blessings from Yugembah Elders. 

Bundjalung woman Purdey Cox and her husband David told NITV News that the service has helped them overcome barriers they experienced with previous childbirths and going through the regular healthcare system.

“In this day and age, we don't all look and act the same, you know? Fairer skin people have racism as well, so going through the hospital system, they don’t traditionally understand where we're coming from as Aboriginal people and they think it's about colour and it's not,” said Ms Cox

“It's about passion, it's about spirituality, connecting with community and land, so it's been great that way because the [Waijungbah Jarjum] midwives know where we're coming from.” 

Father and Turrbal man, David said it was also important to get his son "started on the right foot through Country".

"We just took bub through a smoking ceremony to purify him and get him all ready to go," said Mr Cox. 

Both parents, who also have other children, said the support they received from Waijungbah Jarjums was better for them than the regular hospital system because Indigenous midwives had a better cultural understanding of how Indigenous people raise their children. 

Healthier outcomes for mums and bubs 

Ngunnawal woman and lead midwife of the service, Cassandra Nest spearheaded Waijungbah Jarjums earlier this year and said a study was done to prove the service led to healthier outcomes for Indigenous mothers and babies. 

Results showed mothers were 19 times more likely to attend antenatal visits and 14 times more likely to have an antenatal appointment within 12 weeks of gestation.

There was also marked improvement in low birth weights, increases in mothers choosing to  breastfeed and a reduction in premature births. 

Ms Nest said the higher attendances for antenatal appointment was due to the engagement mothers had with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwife

“The importance of this service is that it connects people to their culture, it provides them with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander advocate and a midwife child health nurse or child health worker," she said.

"We actually had no babies admitted to the near-natal intensive care unit which conservatively saved over 400 bed days and $1.5 million for the health service because our babies were fatter and mums were healthier, they discharged home earlier, so we’ve been able to make an immense difference in such a short period of time.”

The Waijungbah Jarjums has received a continuation in funding and plans to expand its service with more midwives and trainees. 

'By mob, for mob': The midwives making a difference for our mums and bubs
On International Day of the Midwife, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are being supported by our midwives across the country, one team of all-Indigenous midwives on the Gold Coast is hoping to make a difference for our mums and bubs.