Strong Women, Strong Families, Strong Future

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A planned initiative of Karrali Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service for 2018 … FOCUS Photographer James Brooks created a showcase of positive, culturally appropriate images of pregnancy, parents and families in the Aboriginal community. 

Tell us about how this showcase came about.

Closing the gap is a strategic priority of Hunter New England Health and the NSW Ministry of Health. The “Strong Women, Strong Families, Strong Future” initiative involved collaboration between the Aboriginal community and Karrali, which promoted respect and resulted in empowerment of the community and of Karrali clinicians and healthcare workers, along with a large cross-section of the community. When I was contacted by Samantha and the team at Armidale Community Health, I jumped at the opportunity to showcase Aboriginal families from the New England region.

They say, “Never work with children or animals”. How did you manage the day of many families coming through the studio?

With so many different families on the day, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help from the team at Armidale Community Health. Sam’s team created fun activities for the families to do, such as reading books, playing games and of course, blowing some bubbles. Over the day we had a few tears, plenty of laughs, and a whole lot of love and fun. I found it was best to let the families relax into the studio setting, making a fun and laid back atmosphere. In return, I was able to capture the essence of families involved. We had a range of children, from newborns to older children. 

Was photography the only part of this initiative? 

My word no! The initiative included belly casting, yarning groups, art competitions and involvement from groups such as BackTrack and more. The showcase was displayed at the Armidale Community Health building; we had many businesses turn up and participate in the day’s activities. 

What was your goal in creating these images?

To begin with, I really wanted to capture the essence of family relationships, combating pre-existing stereotypes and bias through showing how resilient and strong the bonds are between these close families. My overall aim was to strengthen the relationship and increase engagement between the Armidale and surrounds Aboriginal community and the Karrali Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service. Additionally, creating a greater sense of community pride and showcasing imagery of loving families was key.

Any final words?

It was truly an honour to take part in this initiative. I’d really love to thank all the families involved in the project. To Samantha Quamby and the team at Karrali Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service, a big thank you is needed. Your continued hard work within the New England community goes above and beyond! 

Thanks James.

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