Investing in grassroots First Nations healthcare: Bayer supports Baby Hub in ongoing partnership

Baby Hub immersion

At the northeast tip of the Northern Territory on a small island sits an Indigenous community with a population of 2000 people.

At the heart of this town, there’s a small centre. 

Outside, it’s upwards of 40 degrees. Inside, some children run around and play with toys, while others mirror their mothers and take the opportunity to seek reprieve and close their eyes on a chair or beanbag in the corner. Australian Red Cross staff and volunteers at the centre offer mothers food, nappies and words of support. Everywhere you look here is evidence of love, care and compassion. 

This is Baby Hub.

Baby Hub Immersion on Elcho Island

Bridging the gap
Baby Hub is in Galiwin’ku, also known as Elcho Island, at the top of the Northern Territory. Surrounded by water, the island’s landscape is rich with red dirt, wildlife, and First Nations culture.

Established in 2012, Baby Hub was set up as a partnership between Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation and Australian Red Cross. Staffed predominantly by First Nations community workers, Baby Hub provides wholistic support for mothers and babies, not provided elsewhere. It’s the only place that combines western and cultural medical attention, as well as emotional support. 

At its core, Baby Hub centre exists for the women and babies of Galiwin’ku aiming to improve growth outcomes for babies in their first 1000 days of life, as well as boost parents' confidence, education, skills, and wellbeing. 
It is the only hub of its kind to exist in Australia.

In this community, the pre-term birth rate is 3 times the national average. This means for expectant mothers, having care within the community is critical for both themselves and their unborn baby. Not only this, but Galiwin’ku is located 550 kilometres from Darwin (2 hours by plane), with the closest hospital being in Nhulunbuy (1 hour by plane). This means the resources and medical support that Baby Hub provides to an average of 10-15 mothers and babies every single week, is critical. 

Without Baby Hub, hundreds of women and children would go without food, nappies, education, support, and much needed reprieve. 

Lunch on Elcho Island

Jenanne is a First Nations woman, a mother, and a community worker at Baby Hub. She says, “Baby Hub is a safe house for kids. It is important to have a safe place where mums and kids feel comfortable. Some kids do not receive good care at home, so it is good that we can provide what they need like food, clothing and nappies. 

“It is also important that new and young mothers feel comfortable here to learn things and feel supported, they need to know that they are not alone in motherhood.” 

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that is certainly true in Galiwin’ku.

Baby Hub immersion with Bayer Team

Our partnership 
At Bayer, we live by the words ‘Health for all, Hunger for none’, and our partnership with Australian Red Cross’ Baby Hub couldn’t be a truer reflection of these words.

In late October of 2023, seven staff from Bayer visited Galiwin’ku to learn more about their way of life and understand the importance of Baby Hub to the women and babies of this community.

Suzanne Kwann with First Nations community

Suzanne Kwan was one of those who spent several days on Galinwin’ku. Suzanne not only works as the Marketing Lead for Consumer Health at Bayer in Australia and New Zealand but leads Bayer’s First Nations Working Group as part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team. 

As a woman from First Nations descent, from both Biripi and Worimi in Northern NSW, where many customs and language have been lost, Suzanne says seeing Baby Hub in person was an incredibly moving experience.

“Part of Bayer’s journey of reconciliation is about education. 6 in 10 Australians have never met an Indigenous person in their lives, so to get this opportunity to understand more about Indigenous culture and the knowledge they have to share was something I was really excited to do. Even though I also identify as aboriginal, different mobs have different customs and values, so I, along with my colleagues, went into the trip with an open mind and heart.”

Accompanied by William Daw, NT Director and Sally Carr, Group Head of Partnerships from Australian Red Cross, the team was welcomed with open arms by the staff at Baby Hub, led by Bridget Woods Team Leader, Baby Hub.

“Partnerships such as ours with Bayer are critical in us being able to provide the support we do,” Bridget explains.

“I’ve always felt a strong kinship to other women, particularly mothers. I get a lot of gratification from ensuring that we are supporting one another and making sure we’re doing everything we can so that everyone can have access to health, wellness and happiness.”

Bridget has been working at Baby Hub for more than 5 years, and says the appreciation she has for the hub and the women in the community is something that only continues to grow. 

“I feel very lucky to be here and have strong relationships with a lot of people.

“I think the Western world operating outside of Galiwin’ku can learn a lot about what true connection and community means.

“Everyone here is consistently working together to support one another, and that’s how it should be.”

Sunset on Elcho Island

Seeing the impact of Baby Hub firsthand and reflecting on the trip, Suzanne says, “As a mother myself, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like for these women and children if Baby Hub doesn’t exist. There would be nowhere for them to go.”

“Australian Red Cross has done such an incredible job with this centre.

“There wouldn’t be many organisations out there like Bayer who would be investing in these kinds of places quite like we are.

“I feel really proud to work for an organisation who is partnering with initiatives like this to really make a difference.”

Bridget, echoing her comments, says, “Australian Red Cross is incredibly grateful for any support we can get for Baby Hub, and corporate partnerships like this mean we can continue to provide the best care we can for the mothers and babies of Galiwin’ku, now and into the future.”

Bayer has committed to a $300,000 partnership with Baby Hub over three years. 

Australian Red Cross welcomes other donations to help support Galiwin’ku’s Baby Hub and other vital humanitarian work supporting people in disaster, crises and isolation. For more information, visit the Australian Red Cross website

Bayer held open applications for staff to join the immersion in 2023. We’d like to recognise the high level of support and interest across the organisation and thank those who took the time to visit Galinwin’ku and immerse themselves in this once-in-a-lifetime experience, which included:

- Suzanne Kwan, Marketing Lead for Consumer Health, First Nations Working Group Lead
- Emma Orpilla, Corporate Communications and Sustainability Engagement
- Duthika Mallawaaratchy, Senior Medical Science Liaison, Oncology
- Kerry Biggs, Radiology State Manager, QLD
- Kim Scott, Medical Science Liaison
- Melanie Roukoz, Senior Corporate Communications Associate
- Theresa Doyle, Regulatory Stewardship & Compliance Manager