Woman’s Journey: Baggarrook Yurrongi, Nurragh Manma Buliana

Birthing Tree by Shawana Andrews

The overarching aim of this project is to explore 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).

Caseload midwifery is a type of maternity care, where women have continuity of care from a ‘known’ midwife during pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum. It is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in maternity care, and it is associated with better clinical and psychosocial outcomes for women and their newborns. Prior to the commencement of this partnership project, only small numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women having a baby in Victoria had access to this model of care.

Other aims of the project are to assess model implementation; women’s views, experiences and outcomes; and the sustainability of, and impact of, the caseload model within the organisations.

In 2017, the implementation of the culturally specific caseload models of care began at our partner sites:

  • Royal Women’s Hospital (Parkville)
  • Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s (formerly Sunshine Hospital)
  • Mercy Hospital for Women (Heidelberg).

Data collection was completed in December 2020 and data analysis has commenced and is ongoing.

Baggarrook Yurrongi - Winner of the Victorian Public Healthcare Award 2019:  Improving Aboriginal Health.


This project is a collaborative partnership project developed over a number of years, with each of the six partner organisations having significant input and ‘buy in’. Since funding commenced in 2016, collaborators from each of the four participating health services have been meeting regularly with their working group members. Engagement with all key stakeholders has been a critical aspect of the project. La Trobe’s partnership with VACCHO has been a key driver, and has ensured high level input both in the development and implementation of this work.

Other ongoing key aspects of this project include Aboriginal community leadership on the investigator team and the establishment of an Aboriginal Advisory Committee to provide cultural guidance and oversight, and promote community engagement regarding the project.

This project has been iterative, and we remain committed to this approach; models such as these can only succeed if they are based on the needs of Aboriginal women and their communities, and ongoing consultation is a critical part of this work.

'Baggarrook Yurrongi' 'Nuraagh Manma Buliana'

Thank you to Wurundjeri and Yorta Yorta elders, who following consultations about the project, named it “Baggarrook Yurrongi” (Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people) meaning ‘Woman’s Journey’. In Yorta Yorta, the name is ‘Nuraagh Manma Buliana’ meaning ‘All of us working together for pregnancy”.


The partners in this research project are:Western Health brochure


Helen L McLachlan, La Trobe University, Melbourne

Della A Forster, La Trobe University, Melbourne; The Royal Women's Hospital, Parkville

Sue Kildea, Charles Darwin University, Brisbane

Jane Freemantle, University of Melbourne, Shepparton

Jennifer Browne, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Collingwood

Jeremy Oats, University of Melbourne, Parkville

Michelle Newton, La Trobe University, Melbourne

Marika Jackomos, Mercy Hospital for Women, Heidelberg

Jacqueline Watkins, Western Health, St Albans

Simone Andy, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Collingwood

Sue Jacobs, The Royal Women's Hospital, Parkville

Ngaree Blow, Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville

Karyn Ferguson, University of Melbourne, Shepparton

Catherine Chamberlain, La Trobe University, Melbourne

Susan Donath, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Parkville

Lisa Gold, Deakin University, Burwood

Jenny Ryan, The Royal Women's Hospital, Parkville

Fiona McLardie-Hore, La Trobe University, Melbourne; The Royal Women's Hospital, Parkville

Pam McCalman, La Trobe University, Melbourne; The Royal Women's Hospital, Parkville


This Partnership Project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The project is due to conclude in 2021.


Healing the past by nurturing the future

Professor Helen McLachlan is part of the investigation team on the ‘Healing the past by nurturing the future’ project. This research is a community-based participatory project which aims to co-design awareness, recognition, assessment and support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Aboriginal) parents experiencing complex trauma.

Becoming a parent is exciting but it can be hard. Particularly for parents who have experienced difficulties in their own childhood, which can have long lasting effects on physical, social and emotional wellbeing. The effects may be ‘triggered’ during pregnancy and the transition to becoming a parent, causing distress and challenges for creating a nurturing environment for the new baby. On the flip side, growing research shows that becoming a parent offers a unique life-time opportunity to heal from this childhood hurt and provide a nurturing environment for children.

Yet, despite these opportunities for healing and the risk of triggering due to the intimate nature of perinatal care - particularly during frequent contacts with health care providers during pregnancy and the first two years after the baby’s birth - there are currently no systematic perinatal strategies for supporting parents who may be experiencing complex childhood trauma.

This four-year community-based participatory action research project will begin to address this critical gap.

For further information on this project, please visit the Indigenous Health Equity Unit.

This work has been funded by the NHMRC and is due to conclude in 2021

Image credit: Birthing Tree, ink on paper, 2018, Shawana Andrews.

This image is the official artwork for the project and it represents Aboriginal pregnancy and birthing with support and trust.

The tree's branch and leaves curve to represent the 'holding' of women through their pregnancy and birthing experience. The flowing water represents ancestors past and the rivers Dunghala and Birrarung on Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri country, respectively, to acknowledge the project's place. The circles represent baby and generations to come.