Briefing Paper – Birthing on Country
BIRTHING ON COUNTRY
About Poche Centres for Indigenous Health
Poche Centres for Indigenous Health are an example of the power of partnership in achieving real change to contribute to closing the gap in life expectancy. Established and funded by philanthropists Greg Poche AO and Kay Van Norton Poche, Poche Centres seek to leverage the expertise within Universities, often in collaboration with external stakeholders, to seek solutions that address complex health issues faced by Aboriginal people. The Poches have gifted more than $50million dollars to Aboriginal health over the past six years.
The Poche Indigenous Health Network
The Poche Indigenous Health Network has been created to enhance the collaborative efforts, expertise and resources of each of the individual Poche Centres. The bi-annual Key Thinkers Forum represents a powerful example of this, providing an opportunity for all sectors of community, Government, non-government and academia to come together in critical discussion of significant issues within Aboriginal public health at a national level.
The Key Thinkers Forum Topic – Birthing on Country
The Key Thinkers Forum will consider the implications of birthing on traditional lands and the effect this has on the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities. It will also explore the barriers to putting the concept into practice.
This year the Poche Indigenous Health Network has collaborated with the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at The University of Sydney, The University of Sydney Centre of Cultural Competence and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) to bring you this Key Thinkers Forum.
Maternal and infant health has been identified as an area of need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples many times over. In fact, it is still identified as an area of need by the Government in its Closing the Gap strategy1.
The topic of ‘Birthing on Country’ has been an important and controversial one for some time. It is an area that is gathering momentum at present (in 2017, a $1.1 million NHMRC grant was awarded to the Birthing on Country project) as there has not been significant improvement in the area of infant and mother health within the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples2 since it has been recognized as an area of disparity and great need.
There is a growing body of evidence which states that factors affecting babies in utero and in early life have an effect on their long-term health.3 While we have long known that the rates of chronic disease for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people is much higher than those of non-Aboriginal descent in Australia, the relationship between very early life health and chronic diseases later on in life has not been acknowledged for as long and contributes significantly to the argument that optimum pregnancy and birthing conditions are better for the child.
There is also evidence which indicates that Birthing on Country is good for maternal health.4 The 2010-2015 National Maternity Services plan stated clearly that things needed to improve for the outcomes for Aboriginal mothers and babies in the following ways5:
- (i) increasing the Indigenous workforce;
- (ii) increasing culturally competent maternity care; and
- (iii) developing dedicated programs for Birthing on Country
and that the period of the plan passed “without notable results in these priority areas”6
So where does this leave us? What are the barriers to improvement? Why haven’t these barriers been overcome? There are still some fundamental questions around funding of services in rural and remote parts of Australia and also around the legal and registration barriers. With the policy in place, how do we put it into practice?
We will be joined by a panel of practice experts and academics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwifery to help us explore the topic.
1. What conditions are required to ensure the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and children?
2. Would more widespread medical recognition of birthing on traditional lands assist in closing the gap in infant mortality and promote child wellbeing?
3. What effect does cultural practices of birthing have on addressing the rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality and child wellbeing?
4. Can traditional methods of child birthing be integrated effectively into mainstream health services?
5. What are some of the pre requisites for a healthy birth and baby?
Details of the Key Thinkers’ Forum
Date/ Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Time/ 09:15am – 12:30pm (Registration opens at 8:45am)
Venue/ The University of Sydney, Medical Foundation Building
92-94 Parramatta Road,
Camperdown, NSW, 2050
Chair/ Professor Tom Calma AO
There will be access to tea/coffee/refreshments on arrival.
Lunch will be served on the conclusion of the Key Thinkers Forum, shortly after midday.
At the conclusion of each Key Thinkers Forum, the Poche Network produces a paper that summarises the issues raised and makes comment or presents an opinion about the topic area discussed. It will later be published as a ‘Poche Opinion paper’. Poche Opinions are a tool to contribute to knowledge and to draw the wider community into the key debates and issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.