When Robinvale flooded in 2022, La Trobe alumni Vicki Broad’s property was completely cut off.
“It was like an island. Every day for 12 weeks I had to take a dingey across to my car so I could get to work,” Vicki said.
As Robinvale’s only midwife, Vicki had no option but to be there for her community.
“Mothers and babies need face-to-face support. You can’t check blood pressure or whether the baby’s head is up or down via Zoom.”
A new midwifery placement partnership between La Trobe Rural Health School and Robinvale District Health Service aims to sure up and sustain essential midwifery services.
“I won’t be doing this forever. We need to attract more midwives to places like Robinvale and build the specific skills they need to serve smaller rural communities.”
La Trobe students spend 3 weeks experiencing the continuity of care practice model Vicki established 16 years ago.
“Different to a hospital setting, students get to work with the same woman over multiple visits. They also deal with pregnancies of all risk levels and benefit from working in a tight multidisciplinary team involving a wonderful doctor and social workers.”
Robinvale is a multi-cultural community comprising many migrants who come for fruit picking and agricultural work.
“Their needs are complex: they don’t have much and aren’t on Medicare, which means additional financial pressures and a tendency to go without.”
“As a free service, we are absolutely essential to supporting positive health outcomes for these women and families.”
La Trobe midwifery lecturer Christine Trevena, who has spent time working with Vicki in Robinvale, said the diversity of the client-base provides an invaluable learning experience.
“I am confident this placement program will show our students how rewarding a career in rural midwifery can be.”
Before Vicki started the practice, Robinvale had around 6 babies delivered each year either at home, on the side of the road or at the local non-birthing hospital.
Now, with stronger and earlier midwifery support, these incidents are rare.
“As soon as they have a positive pregnancy test, I get a text. It’s just word of mouth. The community knows who I am and how I can help.”