Returning birthing services to communities and Aboriginal control: Aboriginal women of Shoalhaven Illawarra region describe how Birthing on Country is linked to healing

Yvette Roe, Melanie Briggs, Cherisse Buzzcott, Donna Hartz, Juanita Sherwood, Sue Kildea


Background: For almost three decades, Waminda South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation has provided culturally safe and holistic wellbeing services to the Illawarra Shoalhaven region, New South Wales. Work towards “Birthing on Country” has been a longstanding part of the Waminda’s strategic direction.  Method: Aboriginal ways of knowing and doing informed the multiple methods used. A desktop review of the grey literature and online public databases, then six community yarning circles were conducted in the region. Participants were mothers, grandmothers, community-controlled service providers, and government health providers. A thematic analysis was conducted by two researchers and a Waminda staff member.  Results: Five broad themes were identified and informed the recommendations: (a) redesign maternity and child services, (b) establish a specific wellbeing and birthing place, (c) invest in a clinically and culturally exceptional workforce, (d) strengthen family capacity as pivotal to long-term health and wellness for mother and baby, and (e) community ownership is fundamental.  Discussion: This service model reflects Aboriginal women’s aspiration to have a choice for more culturally safe care during pregnancy and birth. The new model privileges Aboriginal knowledge of pregnancy,  childbirth, and early parenting; which is contrary to the current biomedical model of maternity services available for Australian women. Conclusion: Waminda is best placed to work strategically to implement and evaluate the aspirations of the women and in doing so, has the potential to change the life trajectory of Aboriginal babies born in the Illawarra Shoalhaven region. 

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Addressing the gap within the gap


A research protocol – Indigenous culture, saves lives – Australian Indigenous cultural views and knowledge in health policy: A case study – the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013 – 2023

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