‘Empowering’: new program aims to boost numbers of Indigenous midwives

The program at Randwick, in partnership with NSW Health, TAFE NSW and the Poche Centres for Indigenous Excellence at the University of Sydney aims to help close that gap.

Ms Brown said it was important to have Indigenous midwives as it would give Indigenous women more empowerment during their pregnancy and birth.

“Clients are wanting … to be able to know that the person that you’re working with at this time in your life where you’re very vulnerable shares similar qualities, similar culture, has an understanding of what life is like at home,” she said.

Maria Lohan, a midwife at RHW who helped coordinate the program, said Ms Brown and Ms Traill were a “wonderful asset”. She said it would also improve the delivery of culturally appropriate healthcare to Indigenous mothers and their families.

Ms Brown, who has three children, said while there was no fault with the quality of care during her pregnancies, having an Indigenous midwife would have made her feel more in control.

“The additional support, someone I could just sit and have a yarn with, I think that would have given me a little bit of peace … and allowed me to shape the whole birth experience around what my needs were more so than trying to fit into whatever was best for the hospital,” she said.

Ms Traill did have an Indigenous midwife for her first pregnancy.

“Just having her understand that cultural dynamic was really good for me,” she said.

The 37-year-old said she could not have become a midwife through the traditional university path, but the program – which includes five days a fortnight paid work at the hospital, plus study at TAFE before the university degree – has allowed her to take this opportunity.

“I’ve always wanted to do it, but I didn’t finish year 12, so I don’t have that HSC first off and I never went to TAFE, I was just raising my kids,” Ms Traill said.

“They have such good support, not only the Poche program but with Randwick, Randwick has tailored my hours to fit my family and without them doing that, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Ms Brown, 43, said she also would not have been able to study midwifery without the program.

“It’s creating an opportunity,” she said.

“To get this kind of qualification and to be supported, and being specifically educated around Indigenous women and families within a group of other Indigenous people, is quite empowering.”

This article was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald on www.smh.com.au on 5/7/19 by Rachel Clun.