A pathway to a healthier you

Cultural load in a clinical role

“I’m an Aboriginal woman and clinical midwife.  

“As Aboriginal clinicians there isn't a lot of cultural security or safety for us. We tend to be a forgotten subgroup or even at times invisible within health. 

“We’re walking in two worlds all of the time and it's really hard to switch in between. We can’t just turn off our culture!

Cultural load is specific to you – it’s a different layer on top of your clinical role. People don't understand it unless you explain it to them, says Marni.

“Clients who have daughters or nieces who’re pregnant or they've just had a baby. They want to yarn about their pregnancy or upcoming birth. They often want to yarn about breastfeeding their bubba. I’m not even their midwife but they still come to me for those kinds of things. I love it!!! I don't even know how they’ve got my number, but they've obviously saved it. 

The safe person – a hard earnt reputation

“They don't wanna talk to health clinicians in the hospital because they don't trust the health system or at times the clinician. So, they come to me. 

“That connection and that relationship is so important, and it doesn't stop. It doesn't turn off. It’s like ‘yeah, I'll come in a minute’ or ‘put her in the car’. 

“We have a reputation in our community for whether you're offering good services or not or whether you're a safe person to go to or not. 

“They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, my cousin told me that they saw you and you helped with this. And I've got this problem like, I thought I might try you. And it’s nothing to do with midwifery or nursing sometimes, but it's just that you’re known as a safe person to go to.” 

Work / culture conflict

Our social and emotional wellbeing is based around our country and culture, our Elders, our community, spirituality and  ancestors, says Marni. 

“My role as a midwife is more than a job....it’s about being with women, families, infants...it’s my culture and it never leaves me….that is both with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women.

“You're representing the service you work for, and you have to be what they want you to be, but you also just wanna sit down and have a good yarn.

“Or it might not be the way that the hospital needs it to be, but culturally you made the right choice when we have to think outside the box of how we can help.”

Someone to yarn with who understands 

To yarn through that with somebody else who understands is important, says Marni.

“Sometimes I want to yarn to another family member but I don't, because our families are all connected. Sometimes you wanna yarn to someone that's a bit anonymous because then you don't feel shame and guilt.

“My family think I'm acting too white because I'm all ‘professional’ and I'm going to uni and it can give a little bit of disconnection as we are at times learning white ways. When you start yarning about some of the things that you do at work, they're like, ‘What do you mean, you do that?’

“I'm doing this job to help my Mob. But if I start telling yarning to them about some of my work problems, they’re like ‘well, go ask your white friends at work’. 

“I don't really wanna be ringing up a white person to have a yarn. When you yarn to another Aboriginal clinician, they immediately get it. You feel safe and you know they just understand you on a cultural level but also on a professional level and how you have to put that front on without having to explain why it makes you feel this way as it’s a cultural thing, not a work/ professional thing.

“I’m not calling necessarily about work stuff. I'm looking for that deeper level that has nothing to do with clinical practice but affects clinical practise.

“Sometimes I think I'd like to speak to an Auntie or an Elder to be honest. ‘I like had the craziest day, and this happened. My job was just to do A, B and C but I felt like I needed to do this instead. Can I have a yarn with you?’

“But then in the other sense, for something that might be professional, such as navigating the process of workplace bullying, I’d like to have an Aboriginal midwife to talk to who's been through the same thing and how they may have dealt with it or they can help walk you through it.”

Someone to talk to

If you want to yarn to another nurse or midwife about any issue you’re experiencing whether that be at work or home, call us on 1800 001 060.

More information

CATSINaM (the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives) is the peak advocacy body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives in Australia.