The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has approved $1.1 million to a birthing program aimed at expecting Indigenous mothers in Queensland.
Rangi Hirini

13 Oct 2017 - 1:13 PM  UPDATED 13 Oct 2017 - 1:35 PM

Birthing on Country is essential for the connection between mother, baby and culture, say health experts. Now a program run through the University of Queensland has been given additional funding to get their project off the ground. 

The University of Queensland’s Professor Sue Kildea told NITV News the million dollar funding will empower First Nation’s people.

“It’s time the control goes back into the hands of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” she said.

Birthing on Country is important for expecting Indigenous mothers because it strengthens their connection to the land.

“Women have been asking for 20 years to have birthing brought back home and back to communities,” Professor Kildea said.

The professor of midwifery at University of Queensland (UQ) says the term “birthing on country” can have different meanings for different people.

However, the national maternity policy defines birthing on country as the "best starting life" for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander mothers and their babies. 

“For that to occur we need to have quite a lot of things happening,” Professor Kildea said.

Power to the People

The UQ program, which Professor Kildea leads, has four pillars supporting its birthing model.

The first, and ‘most important’ as described by Professor Kildea, is Indigenous governance or Indigenous control.

“So working with community to make sure whatever you do is what the community wants. That means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders having more input and more say and more control in the services that are being provided for their people,” she said.

The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health and the University of Sydney have contributing researchers involved in the program.

Adrian Carson, CEO of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, agrees with Professor Kildea that a key component is the Indigenous control and governance of services.

“It is informed by Indigenous knowledge and community control with a redesigned health service to provide 24/7 continuity of midwifery care and birthing in an Indigenous birth centre,” Mr Carson said.

The other three pillars are redesigning health services, strengthening families, and building the Indigenous maternal and infant health workforce.

'We're sick of no action'

Currently there are only 230 Indigenous midwives in the whole country, making up only one per cent of the industry.

Six percent of all babies born in Australia are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander decent.

Professor Kildea says there’s huge benefit to be derived from increasing the number of Indigenous midwives.

Closing the gap on preterm birth and low birth rates is one of them.

“If you look at the statistics for (Indigenous) mums and bubs they don’t match the non-Indigenous statistics,” she said.

Professor Kildea says since the Closing the Gap campaign began, there has been no progress in this field.

“We’re sick of no action in this area, we really want government and non government organisations to work with us,” she said.

But for now, Professor Kildea will continue to work on her program and hopes to one day open an Aboriginal birth centre. 


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