Capital Mums: Multicultural stories of motherhood in Canberra

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Sonja Kama with her 16-month-old daughter.

A multicultural upbringing, two Avondale mentors and a government grant has given an alumna confidence to share the stories of culturally diverse mothers in Canberra.

Capital Mums by Sonja Kama will explore themes such as community, cultural influence, identity, resilience and self-care while celebrating the diversity but universality of motherhood. The untold stories in the tentatively-titled book come from mothers representing more than 50 cultures.

A mother from Timor Leste, for example, spoke about losing her mother to a postpartum haemorrhage. She moved to Canberra, had her own baby and experienced similar blood loss but, unlike her mother, received high-quality medical support and intervention. A mother from Finland told Kama that Finnish babies are given naps in prams outdoors even in minus 20 degree temperatures, such is their belief in the power of fresh air.

As a woman with New Zealand Maori heritage raised in Vanuatu who married a Papua New Guinean and is now mother to a 16-month-old daughter, Kama’s story will feature, too. Appreciation for the traditional practices at her wedding helped inspire Capital Mums. Kama’s husband, Bal, is from Simbu Province. In Simbu culture, the women of the family—the “mothers”—gather with the bride to share wisdom and answer questions about marriage and motherhood.

As a new parent who lives far from her family, Kama sees value in the sharing of stories. “So often, society doesn’t provide adequate space for mums to tell their stories, let alone the stories of mums from different cultures.”

While the stories are different, Kama says they are woven together by a sense of connectedness and shared understanding. “Capital Mums is a simple but powerful example of celebrating and creating unity in diversity.”

With almost $10,000 in funding from the ACT Government’s arts agency, Kama hopes to launch Capital Mums next year.

"Capital Mums is a simple but powerful example of celebrating and creating unity in diversity."

Kama graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in communication and international poverty and development studies from Avondale University College in 2011. She found her ideal job immediately after graduation as Communication coordinator for Asian Aid Australia. Kama enjoyed working in a small team she describes as supportive and open to new ideas. A sense of autonomy allowed her to develop professionally and creatively. She particularly enjoyed working with one of her former lecturers, the new director of Advancement at Avondale, Bruna Tawake.

Kama credits the professional placements she completed as part of her degree with helping her discover a love of writing. “I learned from a diverse group of industry insiders who could show me what to expect and help me prepare to navigate constantly changing environments.” She helped launch the first Manifest Creative Arts Festival at Avondale. “I remember being so inspired thinking I could pursue this passion for writing and find support when I needed it.” And in her final year, she provided editorial content for the Avondale newsletter. “I gained a lot of confidence in my ability to find and write a strong story.

“These experiences cemented all I was learning in class. So much of what I do now as a communicator has been influenced by my time at Avondale. To this day, four words in my final practical report from [Public Relations and Philanthropy officer] Brenton Stacey have stuck with me and impacted me and my creative journey like no others: ‘You are a writer.’”

Follow Sonja Kama’s journey on the Capital Mums Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CapitalMumsCBR.