E-News Issue 4
Monday, 07 June 2021
Charles Darwin University
E-news
CDU researchers are a part of a new documentary exploring Yolŋu women’s culture and aspirations for maternity services.
CDU researchers are a part of a new documentary exploring Yolŋu women’s culture and aspirations for maternity services.

Film underscores benefits of birthing on Country

A film titled ‘DJÄKAMIRR Caretaker of Pregnancy and Birth’ follows two Charles Darwin University (CDU) researchers on a unique journey through ancestral time, country and culture.

Filmed over two years, the documentary explores childbirth from the perspectives of Yolŋu women in Galiwin’ku, a community on Elcho Island.

As trust develops between the two women, they aspire to empower Yolŋu women with cultural knowledge and practice.

The project’s co-lead, Associate Professor Elaine Ḻäwurrpa Maypilama, a Yolŋu Elder, cultural authority and senior research fellow at CDU’s Molly Wardaguga Research Centre, said that childbirth has happened on Country for over 60,000 years.

“Skilled djäkamirr (midwifery caretakers) used ancestral wisdom and bush technologies to support women and babies, helping the Yolŋu to flourish,” Professor Maypilama said.

“Since the arrival of Western missionaries in the 1920s, and the movement of childbirth to hospital, Yolŋu have suffered.

“Women have been disconnected from their support systems and the region has profound health inequities including the highest rate of preterm birth in Australia.

“Our film demonstrates that when Yolŋu and Balanda (non-Yolŋu) Australians work together, positive change and community empowerment is possible.”

Dr Sarah Ireland, a medical anthropologist, nurse, midwife, and early career researcher at the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre, was a co-writer of the film.

“This documentary is a rare invitation to experience Yolŋu women’s culture and hear their aspirations for maternity services,” Dr Ireland said.

Marni Tuala, President of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives Australia, praised the film’s content.

“This is a journey of exploration, recognising and sharing thousands of years of cultural knowledge and practice,” Ms Tuala said.

View the trailer for DJÄKAMIRR Caretaker of Pregnancy and Birth.