Indigenous women have been giving birth since time immemorial, when the lands were pure and dream stories were a reality. Birth is the first ceremonial journey we go through to leave the spirit world to enter the physical world. Our connection with our ancestors and our culture gives our people a sense of belonging and bases our ways of knowing, being and doing.
For thousands of years, Indigenous women have used traditional medicines and birthing methods to care for women during labour, birth and postpartum. A continuation of thousands of years of knowledge that has been diluted and overtaken by Western models of medical care. The dispossession of traditional Indigenous birthing methods has resulted in the loss of cultural birthing practices, languages, and self-determination for the oldest living peoples of the planet. But we are still there and not defeated!
The Australian government’s failure to implement a midwife-led Continuity of Care (CoC) model is having a profoundly negative impact on outcomes for mothers and babies. Many of these results can be avoided.
Aboriginal newborns are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as non-Aboriginal babies due to premature weight and low birth weight. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) reports that Indigenous mothers are 3 times more likely to die in childbirth, which equates to 17.5 per 100,000 births compared to non-Indigenous women at 5, 5 per 100,000 births. [do you have a link for this?] – AIHW Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Pregnancy and childbirth outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women: 2016-2018AIHW, Australian Government, accessed February 17, 2022.
Nationally, Indigenous midwifery is in crisis, with less than 300 practicing midwives. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives Congress is working with national bodies and government to highlight the urgency and work to increase the number of Indigenous nurses and midwives across the country. Kelly et al. 2012, indicates that Aboriginal women felt more comfortable and were more likely to access maternity care when cared for by an Aboriginal midwife. [do you have a link for this?] Indigenous women preferred to have their maternity care provided by an Indigenous midwife, as they felt a deeper connection and understanding that can be tied to our shared intergenerational trauma of the invasion. – “She Knows How We Feel”: Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander women of childbearing experience of continuity of care with an Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander midwifery student”: https ://www.sciencedirect.com/
Indigenous women expressed their personal experiences in mainstream services as “racist, critical and dangerous.” If women feel this about mainstream services, then it is a systemic issue, not an Aboriginal issue. If the systems are unsafe and not accessible, we cannot continue to blame women for not having access to crucial maternity care and its outcomes. Racism within mainstream services exists, and this preventative contributing factor is why our women refuse to access services that treat them so flawed, which then results in poorer outcomes.
The gap in health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples remains large, and this is largely due to the lack of understanding and investment in Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. The need to recognize and genuinely invest in Indigenous-led initiatives, including holistic organizational models of care, to eliminate existing historical disparities is critical to improving outcomes for Indigenous peoples.
The good news is that there are Indigenous Community Control Health Organizations across the country, leading the way in best practices and culturally appropriate holistic care in their communities. In New South Wales, the Waminda South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation has served the community for over 37 years and works from an Aboriginal strengths-based perspective and integrates culture as the foundation for health and well-being. -to be. Our goal is to work alongside community members by providing access to cultural, spiritual, physical and emotional wellness programs that have been developed and informed by the community. We address the social determinants of health, which directly and indirectly impact a person’s well-being and ability to live a fulfilling and empowering life that creates strong communities, strong women and strong families.
Our in-country delivery model fits into our larger model of care. This allows for a holistic and comprehensive approach to life, individually tailored. We have been advocating for childbirth in the country for over five years and now is the time to act and invest to give our mothers and babies the opportunity for cultural childbirth guided by ancient traditional methods. .