Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Health

Program leads: Associate Professor Catherine Chamberlain and Professor Helen McLachlan

The Judith Lumley Centre has had a long-held commitment to reducing the substantial health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The period before and after the birth of a child offers a unique window of opportunity to address these inequities.

We are currently undertaking two large NHMRC funded projects. Both aim to improve the health of Aboriginal parents and their babies.

Healing the past by nurturing the future

Co-designing perinatal strategies for Aboriginal parents experiencing complex trauma

This project aims to co-design acceptable and feasible perinatal awareness, recognition, assessment and support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents experiencing complex childhood trauma.The goal is to promote healing for the parent and prevent inter-generational transmission of trauma to the child.

Our partners are the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Alice Springs), Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia and the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (South Australia), the Royal Women’s Hospital and Bouverie Family Healing Centre (Melbourne).

We have completed the first three of four action research cycles, which included comprehensive evidence reviews, discussion groups with senior Aboriginal leaders (Deadly Nannas) and Aboriginal parents, key stakeholder consultation and three key stakeholder workshops as well as development of a preliminary list of possible items for inclusion in an Aboriginal Complex Trauma Questionnaire. We are now conducting psychometric evaluation of the preliminary items with parents, and evaluating the parental acceptability and service provider feasibility of proposed strategies.

This four-year project is funded by the Lowitja Institute [external link] and NHMRC.

Please visit our Healing the past by nurturing the future website for more information about the project, the team, the supporters and on how to get involved.

Woman’s Journey: Baggarrook Yurrongi, Nurragh Manma Buliana

Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies through midwifery continuity of care

We are exploring the capacity of maternity services to implement a new, culturally safe model of care for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women (or women having an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander baby). In this model, women are proactively offered ‘caseload' midwifery: they receive care from the same midwife throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and after birth. The study is also researching women's experiences of care and the effect this model has on the health and well-being of Aboriginal women and their infants. Midwives' views and experiences are another part of the study.

Research team: Helen McLachlan, Della Forster, Michelle Newton, Catherine Chamberlain, Fiona McLardie-Hore, Pamela McCalman; in collaboration with Sue Kildea, Charles Darwin University; Jane Freemantle, Ngaree Blow, Karyn Ferguson and Jeremy Oats, University of Melbourne; Jennifer Brown, Deakin University; Georgia Dickinson, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation; Marika Jackomos, Mercy Hospital for Women; Sue Jacobs and Jenny Ryan, the Royal Women’s Hospital; Susan Donath, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Lisa Gold, Deakin University

This is a 5-year NHMRC funded Partnership Project with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), the Royal Women’s Hospital, the Mercy Hospital for Women, Sunshine Hospital (Western Health) and Goulburn Valley Health.

The model was introduced at the Royal Women’s Hospital in March 2017, Sunshine Hospital in October 2017 and the Mercy Hospital in April 2018. It has resulted in a major increase in the number of Aboriginal women having access to caseload midwifery.

A highlight of the project was the project team winning a Victorian Public Healthcare Award in 2019 in the category Improving Aboriginal Health. The project was featured in this short video [external link].

Find details about this study on the Woman's Journey webpage