Aboriginal artwork at Joondalup hospital represents newborn

Artist Julie-Anne Darling, surrounded by her daughters and granddaughters, gifted a painting to Joondalup Private Hospital's maternity ward. Pictures: Chris Kershaw
Artist Julie-Anne Darling, surrounded by her daughters and granddaughters, gifted a painting to Joondalup Private Hospital's maternity ward. Pictures: Chris Kershaw

AN Aboriginal artwork representing a newborn has become a centrepiece in the Joondalup Private Hospital maternity ward.

Regular patient and Merriwa resident Julie-Anne Darling is the artist behind the painting, Awakening of Life, which depicts a drop of milk in the centre to represent a newborn’s awakening to life.

Mrs Darling, who is also a midwife and lactation consultant, said she was inspired when working in the central desert of Australia and the many times she’d witnessed babies responding to milk from their mother’s breast.

“One time I saw a massive drop of milk fall from a mother’s breast and as soon as the baby tasted it, they opened their eyes,” she said.

“It was so gorgeous to see the baby literally awaken to life.

“In Aboriginal culture, breastfeeding is viewed as a gift to the baby, as the gift of life.

“In the painting, the hands symbolise the ‘handing on of knowledge’ from generation to generation.

“These are the hand prints from me, two of my daughters and my granddaughter, who was only two at the time – she is 16 now.”

A member of the ‘stolen generation’, Mrs Darling said she rejected the label and considered herself member of the ‘loved generation’ instead.

“I was a baby when I was removed – me and my brother, who was 18 months old,” she said.

“We lived first in an orphanage, then in a cottage home and eventually when I was 14, I was lucky enough to be fostered by a family, who I consider my mum and dad.”

Granddaughter Tiana Arrigoni, daughter Sarah-Anne Mewett and JHC chief executive Kempton Cowan watch artist Julie-Anne Darling explain the story behind her work.

Born in Ceduna in South Australia, Mrs Darling said she tried several times to find her birth mother but met dead ends and eventually has accepted that it may never happen.

The lactation consultant, mother of four and grandmother of eleven, said she had a passion for helping woman to breastfeed.

Joondalup Health Campus chief executive Kempton Cowan said he was delighted to accept the piece given the hospital’s objective to be an inclusive place and as a breastfeeding-friendly workplace.

“It’s a beautiful work and will really be a great addition to Joondalup’s private maternity ward,” he said.

National Reconciliation Week starts Monday, May 27 and runs to June 3.

Wanneroo events to celebrate Reconciliation and Naidoc weeks