A group of mothers and their children sit casually on bamboo mats in the shade, weaving napkin holders out of raffia while they talk and laugh.
Lia Pa’apa’a is running the weaving workshop and she gently guides the group through each step.
“We run a lot of workshops that allow the mothers to express their ancestral and cultural connections to who they are and the parent they want to be, as well as the stories they want to tell their children,” she says.
Created by Lia and Merindi Schrieber, and now run with the help of Johannah Maza, Ngamumu [For Mothers] supports Indigenous parenting and provides cultural resources for mums in Cairns and Far North Queensland.
The group aims to help mothers rather than their children and focuses on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
“In those first 1,000 days, so many service providers touch us, whether it’s our GPs, the obstetrician, the early childhood nurses or educators, but still we’re walking away feeling more isolated and alone than ever,” Lia says.
“We are trying to combat that and be part of the conversation and part of the solution so we’re filling the gaps through arts and culture.”
Cooking, language connect women
Mother of three Talicia Bolea says she cried when she first heard about Ngamumu and says it has changed her life.
“When I came along to Ngamumu it just lit a fire in me as a mother to make sure the things I’m doing are always putting First Nations practices at the forefront of the way I’m raising my children and that we are always sharing our culture,” she says.
Talicia says she felt very isolated after the birth of her first two children but has been able to connect with other like-minded women in the community and form wonderful friendships.
“What they are doing is rejuvenating that practice of motherhood and they are helping us to be more conscious of the way that we raise our children,” she says.
“I feel like Merindi, Lia and Johannah are really trailblazing for us as First Nations women and women of colour and I feel like it’s showing us the way that motherhood used to be.”
Ngamumu centres around cultural and artistic activities which include applique stitching, cooking, music, stories, preserving language, writing lullabies and weaving.
Lia says mothers are encouraged to think about passing their own language on to their children, and many have been texting their mothers and grandmothers for help remembering.
“We help the mothers write their own lullaby using language because we think a lullaby is something that becomes an intergenerational gift that you sing to your baby and then your baby will sing to their babies. It’s so precious,” Lia says.
Children’s festival planned
Cooking workshops are also incorporated to reintroduce mothers to traditional foods, through a collaboration with Samantha Martin, known locally as the Bush Tukka Woman.
As the napkin holders are being weaved, Samantha is teaching several women to cook lemon myrtle kangaroo stew.
“I had to prepare this last night because just like ox tail, kangaroo tail takes a bit of time to cook and can be very tough,” she explains to the women.
“By the time we eat it today it should be nice and soft and infused with all the beautiful lemon myrtle.”
As Talicia stands beside her daughter, chopping carrots, she reiterates how important it is to her as a mother to have a supportive community like Ngamumu.
“It really has changed my life and I know that it’s changing my children’s lives too,” she says.
Ngamumu will be holding what it believes to be Australia’s inaugural First Nations Children’s Festival later this month.
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