While I was pregnant my children and I visited our burral* for healing and learning time.
Country spoke to us and sent us the totems of the new teachers that would come into our lives during this new chapter. Country also began to speak about the learning journey that mother and new child would commence together. Country showed us a waterfall and gave us ochre to dance. During my pregnancy, whilst at our burral, I was gifted a dance to honour water.
Almost a month prior to Yiri being born we travelled again out to our burral to wait for Yiri to come.
The month was spent in different types of ceremony: making new friends and sharing in reconciliation ceremony; family healing time ceremony with my children and my mother; women’s ceremony with other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal friends and family; and personal ceremony time for me, alone, preparing for this birth and this new mutual learning journey.
All of it was wonderful. This month of experiences will always remain as one of the most rewarding months of my life. The birth preparation and the birth itself were everything that I needed to fulfill my dream of birthing on country strong in my cultural beliefs. It was healing for my mind, body and spirit and restorative of my inspiration.
I would love to live permanently at or near our burral in this simple way forever with my family. When I do die I wish to go to our burral to die and have my ashes spread there in that place.
The healing of the connection to country that the birthing stories of my three sons have given our family is immense. It was when I was pregnant with James that Mum and a friend first took me to the site (our burral) for healing time as a Wiradjuri woman. My Wiradjuri ancestor Annie Magick was born near the area and I immediately felt a strong connection to country in this place.
My first born, James, was born at Orange Base Hospital because I couldn’t find a midwife to support me for an out of hospital birth. I had a completely natural birth on the hospital floor. James had his welcoming and naming ceremony at our burral when he was five days old. Just over two years later, Preston was born there on country, at our burral by the open fire. He was born on the floor inside a one-room stone cottage because of the winter.
Yiri has now been born in summer time at our burral. Born to the sound of the music made by the water flowing over the rocks of the Goulburn river. Born on the riverbank sand, under the overhang made by a cave, surrounded by a circle of ceremonial fires and under the starlight. Born to the Wiradjuri song sung by his ngama**.
With the growing connection to country that these birthing ceremonies have given to our family, I have much more deeply begun to understand the loss of what was. As a family we have a place in country to go to where our ancestors once lived. My children are connected strongly to mother earth there, as is our belief when the burral is planted with the great mother. We have been visiting this place for mutual healing and learning as a family for over seven years now.
Even years isn’t very long in the story of our Wiradjuri and Ngemba people who have been custodians of this country since time began, since our creator and ancestors walked this earth. Now, as I often do, I begin to reflect on the great loss of the many generations of our Wiradjuri and Ngemba people since the invasion and desecration of this country. We have begun to repair a tiny fraction of what was and it is definitely making our family much stronger. But it is only a tiny fraction of what must be repaired. And we have had to work very hard for this small but powerful healing connection we have achieved as a family.
And yet the country there—this SACRED Wiradjuri birthing, healing and learning place—is under threat from mining at the Moolarban Coal Mine. I gave birth on a mine lease. The escarpments may collapse in the future if mining is not halted; the river may become too polluted for new born babies to touch in the future if our way of living in this country does not change drastically and with haste.
Everywhere we walk is land holding the stories of the ancestors of this country. Now we have contemporary custodians. My children and I are custodians of this land, our mother. Our burral holds our stories now. We love the country and do not want our burral or any other places in country anywhere in ’Australia’ to be destroyed. We want people to take care of mother earth, our land, our rivers and each other.
Country revealed to me Yiri’s birth totem in the lead up to his birth. Yiri’s totem has a very strong connection to water.
Partly during my personal ceremonial time waiting for Yiri and partly after his birth, I was gifted a song in Wiradjuri language to honour water. It is the song to go with the dance I was given by country earlier during his pregnancy. I was singing Yiri the song to honour water during my contractions and immediately after he was born.
The next song and dance that I can feel readying within me is a song I’m being given about my mother and all mothers and mother earth. My amazing, strong and powerful mother is the reason our family has been given this healing gift of restoring our connection to country through these births. My mother has supported me in all my decisions to birth on country, has been present at every birth as our Elder and has given endless love (and much organisation) towards us achieving this as a family. I know my mum has seen the healing taking place within us and is feeling it herself. My mum has given me this gift. She was the one who first reconnected me with this special site and I haven’t stopped going back and getting stronger since.
As I was giving birth to Yiri I was cradled in the arms of my mother as we were all cradled in the arms of our mother ancestors and our earth mother.
To birth on country and for my children and I to have our burral connection has been immense healing. Not all Aboriginal women can make the decision to birth on country due to health or other reasons, however those that wish to do so need to be fully supported to birth in the way that is our religious and cultural right.
However, all Aboriginal women and families, whether they birth in or out of hospital definitely need the opportunity to have access to special country where they can plant their children’s burral and where they can share in women’s business and family cultural and spiritual learning and healing. I’m hoping to make this vision a reality that is available to any Aboriginal woman and her family. I would like your support.
Think of a large expanse of bush in Wiradjuri country with fresh water from a river or creek and springs. Imagine eco buildings built by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal hands together, buildings powered by solar power. One of the buildings is a birthing centre for Aboriginal women who wish to birth inside but not in hospital. Nearby is the river and a ceremonial birthing circle for those who wish to birth outdoors.
Some of the buildings are little cottages so the families can come and stay for up to six months prior to their due date. During this time the families are receiving support to heal through culture, to heal from trauma, to heal from substance abuse, to heal from violence, to heal together. At one end of the property is a men’s space and building where the men are learning and healing and preparing to support their families.
Even if women can’t birth out of hospital for health reasons they can still come to this place for prenatal and postnatal healing and learning with their families and to have ceremony and plant their placenta if they wish—or we will support them to plan to do so in their own country.
We need midwives to attend the women at the healing property for prenatal and postnatal checkups and support and for the actual births. We need health professionals such as Indigenous counsellors and other health professionals and social workers to assist with healing and reintegration of families to broader society a few months after the births…but first we need the land to begin the process of building this vision. I’m asking you, all of you, if you can support this vision in some way, if you can please contact me via email (click on my name at the top of this article to email me).
I want to build a business selling products to raise money towards buying the land. Perhaps you can help with this business in some way, or perhaps you are in a position to donate finances or time to this vision so that we can get land. I really hope some of you can as I know an opportunity such as this will drastically change the lives of many as it has changed mine and my children’s lives.
I would like to extend a special thank you to my midwife Hazel Keedle who I highly recommend. Hazel’s website is at: www.midwifehazel.com. Also a huge thank you to my Doula Danielle Martin who is awesome! Danielle’s blog is at: douladanielle.blogspot.com. And a very special thank you to my mother and my dear friends and family who came out to the site to help with Yiri’s birth.
To help with the campaign to stop mining at this burral site please visit: www.savethedrip.com
*A Wiradjuri word meaning birthplace, placenta and place of placenta burial.
**A Wiradjuri word for mother (there are also other words for mother).