Creating cultural connections through art and medicine

QCA alumnus Marianne Wobcke has received an Australia Council Award for her pioneering work in holistic healthcare.

Marianne Wobcke has been honoured with an Australia Council Award for her pioneering work using art to create culturally safe birth practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

The Queensland College of Art (QCA) alumnus is the recipient of the 2021 Australia Council Ros Bower Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development.

A proud Girrimay woman from North Queensland, Marianne has used her background as a trained nurse and midwife and professional artist to develop a new program of culturally-connected birthing practices and trauma recovery.

“It’s hard to put into words how much this award means to me,” she said.

“I’m always asking myself, if I’ve done enough, if I’ve made a difference – this has helped me realise that I have.”

After graduating with First Class Honours from the QCA, Marianne created an holistic practice called Perinatal Dreaming, using art and culture to support first-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums and their babies.

“Perinatal Dreaming is all about creating culturally rich, supportive and safe practices,” she said.

“It’s a way of using art as a tool for empowerment and expression and integrating it into the care we provide mums and their babies.”

Marianne is passionate champion for the role that community art can play in health and wellbeing.

She worked for several years at The Murri School in Brisbane providing education and health promotion to students from Prep to Year 12.

She has also worked with the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health, as part of the Australian Family Nurse Partnership Program.

Marianne said her time at QCA’s unique Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art (CAIA) program allowed her to connect with her identity and pursue her passion for art.

“I knew I was adopted, but never knew about my Aboriginal heritage,” she said.

“Link-Up helped me trace my birth mother and grandmother and the drawings I made after that reunion were part of the portfolio that got me into the QCA.

Grandmother Dreaming, part of a series of works created by Marianne Wobcke at QCA

“In my work as a midwife, I helped women develop a new identity as mums. In the same way, my time at the QCA allowed me to connect with my true identity and grow as an artist.

“Aboriginality is all about a personal, unique connection to our ancestors — something that was stolen through colonisation.

“Reconnecting with all of those traditional birth and death rituals is vital.”

Marianne hopes to embark on a PhD at Griffith University later this year to continue her research into the connection between art and holistic health.

Dr Carol McGregor

“Griffith University is home to fantastic research into the arts and healthcare, and I’m keen to work with academics from the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre and QCA to bring those two worlds closer together.”

CAIA Program Director Dr Carol McGregor said she was delighted to see graduates like Marianne use the knowledge and skills fostered in the program to pursue diverse career pathways.

“It is great to see that CAIA was the catalyst for Marianne to explore the crossover between art and health,” she said.

“One of the great strengths of CAIA is the multiple pathways it opens up, and it’s inspiring to see graduates like Marianne using art to improve the lives of First Nations peoples.”