Marie is a proud descendant of the Whadjuk/ Barlardong Noongar people. She is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. In reflection on this year’s NAIDOC theme “Because of her we can”, Marie shares a personal story about birthing on boodjar.
When I was born, the hospital made Mum and Dad build a camp outside the hospital, but Miss Jones, the old mission lady, she came and she argued with Dad, that no, my mother was to be put in the hospital. And also they made a bed out on the verandah, and I was born there on the veranda at Beverly Hospital. And I hate Beverly. I’ve never gone back there to this day. And then when my kids were born, well you know, Woodside Hospital was the hospital there, and I often think goodness me, I was born on the verandah and my kids are being born in this beautiful hospital. And I think that’s a really important issue, to talk about, because in Wongi country and other areas, the men technically had first choice of the baby. You know, of who it was going to be given to for marriage, and whether it lived or died. That was according to their lore, to have gone and had a baby up there was a thing ‘cause they could’ve took yours. And when Mum and Dad went to Warburton Ranges to work, they were having to retrain the mothers and the fathers and say to the fathers “no baby’s gotta stay here until baby’s ready to go home”. They wanted to take baby literally straight away. And following on to Aboriginal staff in a hospital; it’s imperative that Aboriginal people are employed within the hospital system.
My niece had a really sad time at King Edward. She had two little babies and they both died. And my sister rang me up and asked me to go up and be with them when the little girl was born, and I’d gone into the room, she just had the little baby and it was only a tiny thing. We had to dress her in dolly’s clothes. And I noticed that there was nobody there for comfort within the hospital system, and it’s something that I’ve spoken to them about and I said you are failing the Aboriginal women by not having a minister or somebody there in the hospital from the Aboriginal community that could’ve gone and you know, prayed with the baby and with the family and helped ease the situation. Because it’s not the Aboriginal staff’s job to do that. They are employed for a specific role. And it’s the hospital’s job to make sure that other social side of life is also looked after when they’re in hospital. It really then comes back to the medical staff to be explaining things more openly. Like with Malachi who had a mother and father on drugs. I reckon that I had a little drug baby for the first 6 months of his life but when I took him back to PMH you know for his check-up. He had to have an eye check-up, ear test, well you know I think the Doctor was shocked because he was still alive, he couldn’t get over it.
I remember when my second son was born, I was breastfeeding him and I had to rush him to Princess Margaret Hospital, you know nobody there and the nurse said to me – he’s a bit fat. She was more worried about my baby than wat she was saying. Thankfully I had a fantastic Doctor and he said look we don’t know what’s wrong with him leave him with us and come back tomorrow morning. That was very hard. That night I had a traditional experience that involved my little son, when I got back there the next day the Doctor said to me; look we nearly lost him last night. But he’s here and we found out that he is allergic to your breast milk. And I nearly fell over. I was feeding him and he was getting lovely and fat, and yeah so he was brought up on Bill goat’s milk and I thought to myself, you know because of the Doctor the way he explained things, that I was comfortable in leaving him, if the Nurse would of told me that – I would of told her where to go. Because I felt it was a very appropriate comment to be making about a sick little baby. So I sometimes think that that is where problems sometime start is how the Aboriginal women are taught, how they are treated when they first go to hospital.
Girls are having babies early; they’re not ready for it. They’re mental stability is going to be very damaging to some girls and, it’s why it’s important. And I always go back now to the education. When I was at school I did what was called Home Science. And I’m no scientist. It was learning how to cook, how to do washing and ironing and laundry, and also how to look after a baby. And that was the best course I ever did at school. And it made me confident so that when I had my babies, my mother wasn’t panicking because she wasn’t worrying that I couldn’t look after them. And the amount of young mothers who are having stress related problems because they’re having all these little children, and I’ve got a granddaughter who fits right into that model, it’s a growing thing. And it’s going to be very damaging, unless we take control of it, it’s going to be very damaging.