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"Protection": new artwork launched

16 May, 2022

Indigenous artwork for the Stillbirth CRE

“Protection” was commissioned by the Stillbirth CRE as part of its Indigenous Research Program.

The purpose of the piece is to help raise awareness about the importance of culturally safe and appropriate Indigenous perinatal health and bereavement support in Australia, and to promote collaboration to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and families.

The painting represents the protection, support, and sense of community Indigenous Australian women need throughout their maternity care, including after a baby has passed away.

“Protection”, By Leona McGrath © Stillbirth CRE (2022)

“Protection” is a beautiful piece of Indigenous art that brings together many meaningful parts:

  1. The hands represent a woman cradling her abdomen and the spirit of the baby who passed away. They also reflect the diverse Indigenous Advisory Group working with The Stillbirth CRE to reduce stillbirth and improve perinatal outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and families.
  2. The colours of the Safer Baby Bundle surround the hands, representing the support of the resources helping to educate women, their families and communities.
  3. Around the hands are the various sets of footprints. These are the footprints of babies who have passed away. They remain prominent in the painting as, although no longer with us, these babies will always be with their families and communities.
  4. The red and yellow dots surrounding the art represent fire and the sun, acting as protection for communities, including protection of health, and protection of Indigenous culture.
  5. Indigenous iconography is used around the hands, which is an important part of Indigenous culture and tradition. The symbols included in “Protection” represent community, and depict:
Woman and child
Campfire/gathering place
Women sitting around a campfire

Deanna Stuart-Butler, Chair of the Stillbirth CRE’s Indigenous Advisory Group and descendant of the Arabana people of the “Pantu Parnda” (Lake Eyre) Region of South Australia, reflected on the significance of “Protection”.

“I wanted a piece of art that reflected our commitment to research and our relationship with grief and loss. To hopefully open the closed doors, to change attitudes and dispel assumptions that have for too long kept our women, families and communities in the dark alone with their sorry business babies.”

The Stillbirth CRE and its Indigenous Advisory Group are delighted to have this piece and look forward to sharing it widely through ongoing research and advocacy activities.

Creative Use Protocol

Please refer to our creative use protocol for more information on the use, reproduction, adaptation and publication of the Indigenous artworks created for use across the Stillbirth CRE program of work. Queries can be directed to the Stillbirth CRE Coordinating Centre

Indigenous artwork creative use protocol

About the artist

Leona McGrath is a Woopaburra and Kuku Yalanji woman from Queensland, now based in NSW. She is a mother, grandmother, artist and registered midwife. Leona is part of the Stillbirth CRE’s Indigenous Research Program and is a member of its Indigenous Advisory Group.

Read more about Leona here.