THE image of Justine Bamblett’s great grandmother on an oxygen tank but continuing to smoke is etched in her memory.
Bamblett, 26, a Ngunnawal woman, draws on that image as motivation for a new program, Butt Out Boondah for Boori, designed to drive down high rates of smoking amongst indigenous pregnant women.
“Seeing my great grandmother with a cigarette in her mouth and a gas tank used to scare me as a little kid… that’s my memory of her,” says Bamblett.
“I don’t want my grandchildren to see me like that.”
In 2017, indigenous mothers accounted for 20 per cent of mothers who smoked during pregnancy.
Those figures spurred Bamblett, a Tackling Indigenous Smoking Officer with the Butt Out Boondah for Boori program, to look at ways of encouraging young mums to ditch cigarettes.
“In the Queanbeyan and Goulburn area there is still a large number of young mums that smoke, and we really want to help those mothers break the cycle of generational smoking,” says Bamblett.
“We have noticed a pattern that if mum smokes, the kids are going to smoke… it’s a culture we have allowed in the home and we really need to break that cycle.”
With smoking in pregnancy having a major impact on the lifelong health of mother and child, including birth complications and low birth weight, Bamblett says quitting smoking early in pregnancy could help to close the gap on indigenous health.
“We are not just focusing on mum and baby, we are focusing on the whole family,” she says.
“It takes a community to raise a child and that’s the approach we are taking with health… we want the whole family to come along and be educated.
“Let’s educate mum, let’s educate dad and nan and pop so they know the effects of their habits and they can make those positive changes as well.”
The program, run by Grand Pacific Health, will combine cultural art and craft activity sessions with a yarn (traditional communication method) about tobacco smoking.
“The yarning circle is a place where everyone is equal, no one is better than anyone else, we are a team, it’s where we have strong conversations and we bring them back to connecting with culture,” says Bamblett.
“When women become immersed in their culture, they become proud to make changes for their health.”
A chance conversation with an Aboriginal elder five years ago was all the motivation Bamblett needed to break her teenage smoking addiction.
“I was at a leadership program in Dubbo and Uncle Tom roused on me for smoking,” she explained.
“He said to me: ‘How can you be a leader if you are smoking in the community… people will think you are a hypocrite’.
“He pulled me into line with one conversation and that cigarette got chucked away…that was five years ago and I haven’t smoked since.”
The Butt Out Boondah for Boori program kicks off later this month, book at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6298 2900.