Zwitsal Zalf Baby Ointment

Petronella Wensing Collection

Source: National Museum of Australia

Petronella Wensing was heavily pregnant when she sailed from the Netherlands to Australia with her husband and two young sons in 1953. She brought with her supplies for the birth and care of the new baby, including this jar of baby ointment. Zwitsal was a familiar Dutch brand of baby products established in the 1920s.

Like most other assisted migrants, the Wensings were initially housed in a government-run migrant accommodation. On their first night in Scheyville Migrant Camp Petronella was sent to the nearby Windsor Hospital, where she gave birth to a third son.

The Wensings settled in Canberra where Petronella became involved in voluntary work with women migrants.

For many migrant women childbirth was their first experience of Australian health care. It could be a time of loneliness and homesickness, without the support or comfort of family or friends, and the inability to communicate in English could compound feelings of isolation. There were no formal arrangements in place for translators in hospital settings in Australia until the 1970s.