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Awabakal community welcomes babies to Country

father presenting baby to elder

Awabakal Ltd (Awabakal) has held two Baby Welcoming Ceremonies in the Hunter this week with two more taking place today to welcome the next generation of First Nations children into the community.  

Supported by nib foundation, more than 200 families with babies across Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Raymond Terrace and Maitland are expected to participate in the cultural event.

The event will include a traditional outdoor smoking ceremony followed by a blessing from Awabakal Elders using ochre to traditionally anoint each baby. Families will also be gifted with a printed copy of their baby photo as a memento, which will be proudly displayed at Awabakal’s local medical clinics.  

Awabakal Chief Executive Officer, Raylene Gordon, said Awabakal are excited to welcome back the Baby Welcoming Ceremonies this year and support First Nations youth to connect to country and community.     

“We’ve held our Baby Welcoming Ceremonies since 2015 and after a two year hiatus due to COVID-19, we’re glad to be back,” Mrs Gordon said.   

“Our ceremonies relate to the tradition of introducing new babies to the community where the Elders welcome them to the land. It is important that our babies grow up knowing their identity and connection to country.   

“This sense of identity and belonging was denied for many of our people for so long, and our ceremonies are a reminder to our community that you and your babies belong here, and they are loved. We all want to help them grow to be proud, safe and beautiful First Nations people,” she said.  

Mrs Gordon said the ceremonies have great cultural significance and also provide Awabakal with the opportunity to connect families with their Aboriginal community infant and maternal healthcare services in the region.

“We view the ceremonies as a lifelong commitment to providing the best medical and community services we can offer to our people,” Mrs Gordon said.  

“Bringing families together, connecting to culture and fostering relationships between baby, family and healthcare, we want to show that we’re here to support each other through life and health,” she said.  

nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe, said nib foundation is proud to support this event in Newcastle.   

“Awabakal has an excellent reputation for delivering infant and maternal healthcare for First Nations youth and all babies born through Awabakal clinics in the regions are invited to attend the Baby Welcoming Ceremony,” Mrs Tribe said.   

“We’re proud to be a part of the ceremonies this week to bring awareness to the health and social services that Awabakal have to offer, so they can have the greatest impact on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and their families,” she said. 

The Baby Welcoming Ceremonies coincide with National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day on Thursday, 4 August. 

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