Account written by Kate Gorman, CO Director: The Face of Birth.
Due out February 2012. www.faceofbirth.com
For the last leg of our two year shoot on the Documentary The Face Of Birth, we wanted to film stories of Aboriginal women about the importance of choice in place of birth and birthing on country, to complete our look at women who home birth around the world.
With the help and brilliant organizational skills of the Core Of Life team, we were given the unique opportunity of visiting Yirrakala in Far East Arnhem land.
Both my co director Gavin Banks and myself had never been on country before, we were excited but didn't know exactly what we were going to get in terms of content. Deb had told us to just go with the flow and see what the women had for us.
It's always a little awkward traveling with cameras lights microphones, even harder on small light aircraft, and when we landed somehow all this 'stuff' seemed even sillier than usual in this beautiful, yet completely unfamiliar environment, in the heat by the sea. Everyone else managed to get by with out so much as a handbag, I was beginning to think it would have been much more sensible to just bring a bottle of water, a hat (yes I forgot mine .... Thanks Tracy for the lend ...) and film everything on my mobile phone. I couldn't exactly see all this equipment making people feel comfortable.
But then we met Djapirri, straight away I knew she would have powerful lessons to teach me, there was something about the wisdom in her eyes and the cheekiness of her smile that hinted at the magic of great stories to come. 'Quick we have to get those lights up and turn the camera on now Gavin!!'
The women elders of Yirrakala opened up and shared their ceremonies and culture around birth and raising children. We interviewed some strong women from the community saw them share knowledge with local teenage girls, and even filmed a baby smoking ceremony. It was both beautiful and educational.
It was wonderful to see the warm strong and trusting relationship that the women had with Deb and Tracy, and to here Djapirri say that 'between them now was a bond that will never be broken, white woman and black together.'
It's important for all pregnant women to been informed and supported and have good maternal care available to them, we have heard this message from people in the UK the US, New Zealand and all over Australia, and this was also true for the women of Yirrakala. But more that this what we learned is that it is so important to be able to choose place of birth for the families of Yirrakala because of the special connection to the land that this community (and many others in Australia) have.
The day ended with a wonderful dinner at which Djapirri's young nephew gave me an aboriginal name, Ganynu it means star. ...
It was over all two quickly, we had to be back in Darwin to film Core Of life holding a cross-cultural workshop (wonderful and hilarious) and to interview Deb and Tracy about the important work that they do. I believe that we can change the culture and climate of maternity in Australia to have less fear and better outcomes by empowering young women and families with information and support through programs like this, I was glad that we could capture some of these elements in the film.
Deb said to me that once you have visited East Arnhem Land, it gets into you blood and you have to come back. She was right, I hope to return to Yirrakala one day, and hear more wonderful stories.