Issue 9
Monday, 04 November 2019
Charles Darwin University
Rebecca Barlow (far right) with customer, Kimba Benjamin
Rebecca Barlow (far right) with customer, Kimba Benjamin

Deadly support for Aboriginal midwives

By Kaye Hall

Nyungar woman and CDU Midwifery student, Rebecca Barlow is keeping connected with culture and creativity through her fashion label, Deadly Denim. 

She also donates 10% of what she earns to the Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund.

Rebecca, who started a Bachelor of Midwifery in 2014, studying part-time online, said she hoped to work in Aboriginal midwifery group practice within her own community. 

As a single parent living in southwest Western Australia, she found placements hard to afford, due to costs associated with childcare, travel and loss of earning. To supplement her income, she began selling recycled clothes.

“When I first started studying I did up an old caravan and set it up as a vintage clothing shop and went around to markets,” Rebecca said.

“When I sold that business, I set up a mobile fashion truck, painted by local Aboriginal artists, and travelled to shows and festivals.”

She then came up with the idea of buying screen-printed fabrics from remote Aboriginal art centres and incorporated printed panels in recycled denim jackets. 

Rebecca established her fashion label, Deadly Denim, collaborating with individual artists whose designs are digitally printed on to fabric designs and stitched into recycled denim jackets, skirts and jeans. 

Ultimately, it all loops back to midwifery.

“What I love about the denim is all the networking with Aboriginal-owned businesses to promote and support each other,” Rebecca said.

“It’s all women who I’ve been networking with, women supporting each other.

“It’s a good way of keeping connected with culture, Aboriginal artists and Aboriginal women in business.”

The 10% of proceeds that Deadly Denim donates to Rhodanthe Lipsett supports the Indigenous midwife workforce in Australia through scholarships. She recently donated Deadly Denim jackets to the Australian College of Midwives Conference and in return, they donated old denim jackets to be recycled by Rebecca. 

“We need more Aboriginal midwives and fundraising for Rhodanthe Lipsett gives me the space to promote Indigenous midwifery when I’m out and about,” Rebecca said.

“The denim keeps me connected to culture, which I find quite challenging on hospital wards, the hospital setting is a bit sterile so being creative gives you a good outlet.”