Labour pains: The dilemmas faced by Asian mothers on the Gold Coast

Emma investigates the dilemmas faced by Asian mothers living on the Gold Coast

Asian mothers living on the Gold Coast want to be part of the Australian community and healthcare, but when they are unable to follow cultural practices during labour and after birth they can be left feeling sad, anxious and helpless.

eye design clothes

eye design clothes

Faye is a young Chinese mother, whose baby was born at the GCUH.  Faye says she was not happy and she suffered anxiety, although she admits she was provided with a very professional medical service.

Faye said it was a painful process of waiting for the baby to be born made worse because staff were not aware of the different cultural health practices. “During that time, the nurse constantly brings ice water to me and urges me again and again to drink the water.” However, Faye said she could not drink the water, because she thought that drinking the water with ice will increase the pain. In addition, she said, the nurse also gave her cold water after giving birth and emphasized that drinking water would assist in milk production, which made her feel very anxious.

In fact, Faye cannot accept the cold water due to her own culture. “Since my childhood I was told that if I am in poor health condition I cannot drink cold water at all, especially after a woman just giving birth.” Although Faye was very upset at that time, she drank the ice water because she did not know how to say no.

In addition, there is another thing that made her feel disappointed. She said, “My son has to wear a special clothes with eyes design at the first time after he birth, which was prepared by her grandma, but I failed to fulfil this custom in Australia.” Faye did not dare to mention this with her family.

To wear clothes with the eye pattern is a very important practice for newborns, which represents the auspicious life and newborn babies will have a bright future. However, because there is no timely communication with the nurse this led to her baby failing to fulfil this important custom, which made her very upset.

Annie, another Chinese mother living on the Gold Coast, whose baby was born late last year, had decided to make the trip back to her hometown to give birth, because she felt that it would be better than giving birth in Australia. She took a more than ten hours’ flight back to China, when she was almost eight months pregnant. Annie said that she and her husband felt overwhelmed with facing the new baby’s birth, and they also was concerned about how to provide a good postnatal care for the new mother in Australia.

In non-western cultures, there are many health practices, especially in terms of postnatal care, and some rules need to be strictly abided by. That is why Faye cared about the temperature of the water and why Annie was so worried about the complex rules for the postnatal care and went back to China to give birth.

In Western cultures, once the baby is born, the all focus is on the baby rather than the mother. The common practice is to celebrate the baby with baby showers and visits from friends and family who come bring gifts all for the baby. However, Non-Western cultures place great attention on the health and recovery of the new mother. There are many different beliefs and practices in non-cultures and two common belief of which play significant roles.

One common belief is to maintain balance between hot and cold within body and environment, especially in the period of postpartum care. According to Karen’s blog, the concepts of hot-cold balance in healthcare area have a long history in the traditional cultures of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, which also called humoral theories. Karen writes that because the blood is considered hot and after women give birth the body condition is considered cold, to keep warm and avoid touch cold stuff is very important in order to recover humoral balance. Therefore, it is easy to understand why Faye was so concerned about the cold water that the nurse gave her.

Dana, a Korean new mother, whose baby was born in the GCUH, says in Korean culture new mothers are not allowed to eat cold or hard foods, nor can they be exposed to cold weather and cannot take showers. However, in Australian hospital the air-conditioner is open all the time and nurse always urged her to take shower that made she felt so cold and anxious after she give birth.

The second common practice is to encourage rest and confinement up to 40 days after birth to regain energy and strength, and during postpartum period women’s internal organs and tissues will be recovered. In Karen’s blog, there are many different postpartum care experience related to many countries, such as Korea, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. She said some rituals, behavioral restrictions and proscription of the postnatal care aim to make sure that the new mother can restore energy to focus on caring for her baby and herself.

Dana said, in Korean, they call the postpartum care samchilil, in which period there are so many behavioral restrictions and special diet for milk production. Miyuk-kuk is the traditional soup and is prepared for new mothers to eat at least 2-3 times a day during samchilil. “The meal in the hospital don’t suitable for me and to prepare miyuk-kuk and deliver it to hospital is too much trouble, so I went back home from the hospital as soon as possible.”


Zubida and Emma

In addition, Zubida is an Iraqi mother, had her the second baby in Australia. She said, she stayed in door for 40 days after giving birth. In her culture, people believe that because of lochia, the normal discharge from the uterus after childbirth, women after birth are believed to be susceptible to evil spirits, so they do not leave their homes, and are not allowed to cook or clean for the first 40 days. Zubida said, after she gave birth, her parents came to Australia and dedicated to take care of her for the postnatal care. She said, “If there was no relatives come for help, I would really feel very helpless, also cannot cope with such a long time to take care of myself.”

Australia is a multicultural country, Queensland government pays attention to the cultural dimensions of pregnancy, birth and post-natal care. On Queensland Government’s website, there are many multicultural clinical support resource.The profiles present health and socio-cultural information which focuses on the pregnancy, birth and post-natal care practices of 11 multicultural communities in Queensland, as well as general information about each community. It encourages healthcare providers to actively explore cultural issues with patients and cautions against stereotyping.


Gold Coast University Hospital

In addition, the GCUH also actively deals with the cultural differences that exist in the hospital, and constantly develop and perfect their medical services. Julie works in the GCUH as an obstetric nurse. She told me in email that as a nurse, it requires cultural knowledge and ability to provide multicultural services. Moreover, the GCUH is providing interpreters, group supports and other resources according to clients’ requirement. “Health workers are given continuous education through lectures online and face-to-face encounters about multicultural problems and their corresponding solutions.”  The GCUH are also distributing pamphlets, T-shirts and video materials advocating the solutions about cultural difference in health care system.

In the interview with Julie, I asked why these dilemmas  still exist. Julie said that Faye’s experience was a  vivid example of failure in rendering a holistic nursing care and management.  “As a nurse, it is a part of our professional ethics to consider and respect the rights of our patients and their families. Nurses should know their patients beyond their presenting problems but also their religion, beliefs, race, traditions and customs in order to give a better nursing care base on the nursing standards. However, not all Asian women are bound to follow their native cultures and traditions. Some of them are already exposed to more westernized way of living. So it always safe and advisable to treat each client individually.” Therefore, in these bad experiences, such as the cold water, the eye design clothes, and the shower and air-conditioner matters, she thinks the main problem is lack of an effective communication.

In terms of how to improve the effectiveness of communication, she said “I have a Chinese patient that can only speak Mandarin and few English words. She cannot understand our instructions and queries. This is an example of language barrier that can affect in the rendition of our care to her. ” In this situation, an interpreter should be arranged in order to have a better communication and to uplift a better nursing care and management. Furthermore, she said “nurses should not give up on one of the many barriers that we encounter on a daily basis. Instead, we should be encouraged to find ways to remove any hindrances that can affect the standard of our care.”

The problem that some Asian women feel helpless when they face to their own postnatal care and the confinement, Julie mentioned that currently the GCUH has upgraded the postpartum tracking service. A family doctor will visit to new mothers’ home after they leave the hospital and doctors will assist in their health and give some effective rehabilitation guidance. The family doctor will visit the new mothers every day during the first week, and the number and frequency of visit will gradually decrease with the degree of rehabilitation and needs. The GCUH wants to provide good healthcare for each new mother when they back home from the hospital. Although it cannot help them with household chores, family doctor will try to give them support and help.

At the end of the interview between Faye and I, Faye said, in Chinese cultural saying ”no” to the person who gives you help is very impolite, which means she cannot to refuse others offers to help. She also believes that the reasons causing her bad experiences are lack of initiative to communicate with the nurse. In the future, she said, if she wants to integrate into Australian community and becomes apart of them, it is important to conduct effective communication.

Culture plays a significant role in the way a woman perceives and prepares for her birthing experience. As Julie said, everyone knows that each culture has their own values, beliefs and practices related to pregnancy and birth. Not all Asian women are bound to follow their native cultures and traditions, and some of them are already exposed to more westernized way of living. However, there are other women who still consider that to follow their own traditional pregnancy and birth practices is very important. Queensland government believe that “if health care providers are familiar with different ideas, rituals and behavioural restrictions and proscriptions, and communicate with the women for whom they care, then women from different backgrounds will have more choices.”

At the end, Julie said, some Asian women still have the problems of multicultural service and face to some dilemmas, which is an inspiration for them to be more assertive and to ask preferences depending on their culture. For instance, “if a mother will ask for a glass of water, it is always advisable to ask her what she preferred: hot, warm, lukewarm, or cold water.”


Gold Coast: The next fashion capital?

By Gabby Ruiz

It’s no secret the fashion business in Australia is growing at a fast pace. Big cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, are leading the industry with shops, designers and fashion weeks. However, they aren’t alone. Small cities want their share of the market and they also have a lot to offer to this creative industry.

The Gold Coast is one of these rising fashion cities. This sunny coast represents summer and fun. This style can be seen in its sense of fashion and in the local shops and boutiques present in the different suburbs.IMG_1656 This sunny coast represents summer and fun. This style can be seen in its sense of fashion and in the local shops and boutiques present in the different suburbs. From Main Beach to Burleigh Heads and passing through Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach, you can find some of the finest and most unique shopping options in Australia. Each suburb has its particular style and taste, but all of them are trying, one way or another, to sell the local talent of Australian labels.

The local government even has support program for the creative arts such as film, fashion and music. The Business Gold Coast’s creative program provides support that’s estimated at more than $190 million annually. With more than thirty shopping centres it is not a surprise that the Gold Coast is a prime shopping destination. The retail industry on the Gold Coast takes strength from the region being a tourism target.

Recently, the Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce of Australia, better known as META, announced the creation of the Australian Made Clothing Hub in collaboration with the Council of Textile & Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA) with the aim of increasing the amount of locally made clothing sold within the country. The managing director, Zoran Angelkovski, said to Manufacturers Monthly that clothing sales in Australian totalled $13 billion annually, and the hub would aim to increase the local manufacturers’ contribution by another three per cent, or $390 million.

The fashion locations

IMG_1665One of the prime shopping destinations of the Gold Coast is Marina Mirage in Main Beach. The beautiful waterfront shopping centre is located in one of the most iconic suburbs of the Gold Coast. It lies directly opposite the five star Sheraton Mirage Resort and Spa and just by crossing a little bridge you can be in the spectacular and exclusive Palazzo Versace Hotel. One of the most iconic boutiques in Marina Mirage is Adrenalin. Established for more than sixteen years, Adrenalin is a buzzing designer boutique stocking an amazing collection of women’s brands from the most wanted Australian labels.Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 8.17.07 amDean McCauley, Managing Director, considers that the fashion scene in Gold Coast is evolving. “We are finding more and more people are interested in fashion as well as people moving to Queensland who follows fashion especially Australian designers that’s what we specialise in.” In this scenic shop, we can find the designs of talented Australian Designers such as Camila and Marc, Sass & Bide, Cameo and Ellery, among others. For McCauley, the prime input of the Gold Coast to the fashion business in Australia is the new emerging designers. “As long as the talent keeps coming through the Gold Coast, the spotlight on our talent will shine and get the attention from the other states.”

Walking through James St. in Burleigh Heads, is typical of the new “street shopping” scene on the coast. The shops, the delicious coffee and the feeling of being locally made create a relaxed vibe.  Stores offer the best Australian designs. Emte is one of them. Two entrepreneurial girls who wanted to showcase the Australian talent and inspire with creativity funded this boutique. Nowadays, just Emma Owens, one of the original founders, runs the boutique and Emte is a reflection of her personality and taste. “We have the amazing jewellery of local Gold Coaster Samantha Wills, who started at a market and now is internationally renowned. We also have Violet Gray that is designed by a local woman and has this down to earth vibe. The amazing watches of the Australian brand Status Anxiety are also in.” For Emma, it is important to support local business and brands. She feels the Gold Coaster shoppers are really interested and appreciative of local talent.

IMG_1658Another example of the new type of boutique you can find in James St. is Bikini and Me. Tanya Alexiou, the owner, is not a stranger to the clothing business. She created the boutique four years ago and the aim was to show the Australian design and create a sublime shopping experience. She believes the Internet has played a valuable role in the spreading the talent of local designers. “Up to five years ago we were a little behind compared with other cities, but now, with the Internet, I think we have a more global access and visibility. Consequently, the local talent can now show their creations and become known. We have now much more to offer than just swimwear fashion.” However, for Tanya, the most difficult part of the fashion businesses on Gold Coast is the existence of numerous shopping centres and she believes the city deserves more street shopping. “That is why James St. is so appealing and attractive.”IMG_1663

Big names in a small city

The big chains of fashion retailers have also targeted the Gold Coast. Zara was one of the first blockbuster international retailers to push into the Australian market a few years ago. This year, the Spanish retailer decided to open the first Queensland store and, instead of choosing Brisbane, they chose Robina Town Centre on the Gold Coast as their first location in the sunshine state.

So, how has this big and international chain of fast-fashion affected the local fashion business? For McCauley, the presence of these big stores, such as Zara, has cemented the fashion scene to grow on the Gold Coast. This way more and more customers can see the emerging trends coming through from overseas. “The only thing I hope is that people continue to support small business and Australian designers and high-quality products, otherwise our fashion industry will disappear which would be a disaster.” His main concern is that these overseas companies are not investing into the future of Australian businesses. For Owens, the presence of these big chains doesn’t mean a threat to her local boutique. She believes its´ just another good option for the customers but they will still shop for local designs.

The Robina Town Centre is one of the biggest shopping centres in Gold Coast and features the Gold Coast’s only David Jones department store as well as Myer, Australia’s largest Big W, Target, Kmart and over 350 specialty stores. Among these stores are most of the big names in Australia fashion industry such as Country Road, Cue, Kookai, Oroton, Portmans, Saba, Veronika Maine and many others. The latest trends and styles are displayed throughout the centre and one of the main focuses of the Shopping Centre is to become known as a fashion destination.

Another iconic shopping centre on the Gold Coast is Pacific Fair. It was one of the first shopping centres in Queensland and is now refreshing it its look in order to become a world-class shopping destination. The inversion is more than $670 million, which commenced in January 2014. With this renovation, Pacific Fair will be the largest shopping centre in Queensland and the fourth largest in Australia. Also, they announced a new David Jones on the Gold Coast.

Of course, the Gold Coast is not exempt of the luxury of the fashion world. For example, walking through Elkhorn Avenue, in Surfers Paradise, you can find a line-up of very prestigious boutiques. Louis Vuitton opened in this boutique in 2008 because for the brand, this was the best location in the city to consolidate the brand presence. As Oceania CEO, Philip Corne, commented to Gold Coast Business News, “Elkorn Avenue is starting to be the Rodeo Drive of Surfers Paradise.” Hermes, Gucci and Cartier are also showing their luxury creations in beautiful vitrines. In Main Beach, the Palazzo Versace Hotel contained the boutique Versace that showcase the last creations of the Italian brand.IMG_1664

Producing culture

But it is not all about business. There is also a rise in creative talent on the Gold Coast that goes hand by hand with the fashion business growth. Initiatives such as Rabbit & Cocoon and Sold Coast Project are exposing the talent and creativity of Goldcoasters. A fashion designer, a festival director and an art administrator  founded Rabbit & Cocoon with the aim of showcasing local talent. Nowadays, they have fourteen vibrant and distinctive warehouses where creative people build art practices, launch enterprises and stage public events. For the Sold Coast Project the aim is to amplify the cultural identity and work towards a vibrant, creative future for the Gold Coast.

For Shanene Ditton, member of the Centre for Cultural Research of the School of Humanities in Griffith University, the fashion business has emerged from the Gold Coast’s laid-back, sunny beach culture. “In contrast to metropolitan areas, many designers and artists on the Gold Coast are noticeably more relaxed with their style and artistic practice, reflecting the pace of their lifestyle and their natural surroundings.” Ditton believes the Gold Coast is now a thriving cultural hub, drawing artists and entrepreneurs alike. The Gold Coast presents a clean, open slate for artists and entrepreneurs to mould and transform as they wish. “The art scene on the Gold Coast is also particularly resilient, having emerged in resistance to the dominant representation of ‘sun, sand, surf and sex’.”

So what is the input of the Gold Coast to the Australian culture and fashion scene? Ditton agrees in that the beach spirit of the city is a fundamental part of the Australian culture and the creative talents of the Gold Coast can represent this national feeling of wishing sunny days and sandy airs. “In this way, Gold Coast fashion brings much to Australian culture—you just have to look at Paula Stafford’s bikini to see how much impact Gold Coast fashion can have on the Australian industry, and indeed the nation’s psyche.”

The Gold Coast has much more to offer than just bright sun and beaches to surf. The Gold Coast can be a fashion destination with its unique personality of relaxed vibe and the strength of street shopping. These uniqueness characteristics can attract fashion shoppers from all over the world and also within Australia. The talent shown and the presence of big and international fashion retailers can also mean that the city can stand strong next to the big cities such as Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Who knows, with this fast growing pace someday the Gold Coast can be name as a fashion capital.