Sea of Bellies is an arts program, delivered across a number of communities, connecting young Aboriginal mothers with Elders and midwives before and after the birth of their children. The program started in Moree, with a women’s group called Mubali (meaning swollen belly in Gomeroi) where casts were taken of women’s pregnant bellies and then painted by artists and Elders from the community. The artworks and painted casts have been exhibited at the Moree Plains Regional Gallery, Lismore Regional Gallery, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The early participants saw outstanding results in pre- and post-natal care and resulted in improved health outcomes for mothers and their babies.
Following the success of this initial project, Sea of Bellies has been implemented in communities across Australia. Previously, young women would only be seen by the midwives at the time of birthing in hospital; through this program they are connected with midwives and Elders in the weeks leading up to the birth. During the process of belly casting the women receive prenatal care and checks from the midwives. Elders and other local and established artists, then paint the belly casts, connecting the younger and older Aboriginal women through shared stories of childbirth and motherhood. This program consistently results in better health outcomes during and after pregnancy and enables the women who attend to connect with other pregnant women in their community, sharing new health knowledge and support for each other in an informal (but intentional) mothers group setting.