Cradled in her father’s arms, little Aubrey Kyle is carried along a line of Elders.
Each Auntie or Uncle either coos at the five-month-old, squeezes her chubby cheeks or lands a kiss on her forehead.
Aubrey, along with nearly 40 other babies in line, is given gifts of braided yarn in traditional colours, an information pack from West Moreton Health and a mobile made of two emu feathers representing the choices she will make in life.
Aubrey’s daddy, Sheldon Kyle, then pauses while a thin plume of ceremonial smoke gently floats over her warding off bad spirits and making a pathway for a bright future.
Finally she is sat in a coolamon (a dish carved from a tree) covered in animal skin while photographers shout her name.
The sounds of clap sticks and singing fill the air.
Aubrey Kyle has just received her first introduction into her traditional culture.
“It is important for Aubrey and Sheldon to celebrate their heritage and to celebrate where her grandmother comes from,” Aubrey’s mother Rebecca Pedersen said.
“It’s an opportunity to introduce her to the community and to know her heritage and culture.”
For the first time, a Welcome Baby to Community ceremony was held at the Ipswich Hospital Yarning Circle.
Pearl Sandy with her grandson Marcus, 1.
For thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have held Welcome Baby to Country ceremonies to acknowledge an infant’s connection to the land on which they were born.
That traditional ceremony was given a modern twist recognising there are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from many different areas now living in the Ipswich area, with the health service’s ritual connecting children to community.
Kaizen Moffatt, 6 months.
West Moreton Health’s Coordinator Indigenous Hospital Liaison Service Cassandra Tratt said most of the babies attending the outdoor ceremony would have been born at Ipswich hospital, with others new to the area.
“We are working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be to come along to our community and hospital clinics so we can improve their care before and during pregnancy and support their children’s needs to provide the best start to life,” Ms Tratt said.
Kirali Baker with her baby Denise, 5 months.
“Our Welcome Baby to Community ceremony recognises the important cultural need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to connect children to community, and for our health service, our midwives, nurses, doctors and support staff, it builds a strong cultural understanding and appreciation for the community we serve.”
West Moreton Health plans to hold Welcome Baby to Community ceremonies every six months.