Reconciliation Week

Actions to achieve better maternity outcomes

Being only three per cent of the Australian population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can’t raise the profile of important issues without our support.

We at Maternal Health Matters want to see the all pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander receive Respectful Maternity Care informed by Birthing on Country models of care.  This will go a long way to redress unacceptable maternal and infant health outcomes for First Nations families in Australia. To achieve this requires a maternity workforce that is culturally acceptable and culturally safe.

In terms of workforce, in 2015 there were 230 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander midwives nation-wide – this is a mere 1% of the midwifery workforce.

The Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander population is 3% of the total Australian population, yet our people contribute to 6% of births Australia wide.

These figures highlight the disproportionate number of our people represented in the midwifery workforce compared to the number of our people accessing these services.

How do we improve service provision and outcomes without a substantial increase in these figures? The short answer is we don’t.

This trend continues when looking at the completion rate of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander students within tertiary level Midwifery courses across the country.

We need to continue to focus on how we support our people to navigate through these systems and complete these courses – to graduate and move out into the workforce where we need them.

Part of this is also increasing the awareness and acknowledgement within our health services as to why it is important to have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Midwifery workforce.

If the broader health services community can better understand WHY we need more midwives, there will be a flow on effect…resulting in better support for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Midwifery students and graduates and a step towards more culturally appropriate maternity services.

Source: Karel Williams | Executive Director, Burbangana Group