Recognition for First Nations program

An innovative program led by La Trobe University researchers that aims to improve the health of First Nations mothers and babies has been recognised in the Engagement Australia Awards.

The Baggarrook Yurrongi program, which revealed that maternity care for First Nations mothers and babies can be improved through access to culturally safe continuity of midwifery care, won the Award for Excellence in Indigenous Engagement.

The project was conducted in in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), and three Melbourne public hospitals – the Royal Women’s Hospital, Joan Kirner Hospital and the Mercy Hospital for Women.

Professor Helen McLachlan from La Trobe University’s Judith Lumley Centre said the team were thrilled to be recognised for this innovative program.

“Health outcomes are substantially poorer for First Nations women and babies than for non-First Nations women and babies – meaning we urgently need strategies to improve outcomes for both groups,” Professor McLachlan said.

“The recognition of this award is wonderful, because it highlights the strong need, and the effectiveness of innovative programs like this one.

“As we gratefully receive this award, we’d now like to see a national push to implement, embed and sustain a culturally responsive caseload midwifery model for all women having a First Nations baby,” Professor McLachlan said.

As part of the project, continuity of midwifery care was offered to women having a First Nations baby, with remarkable program uptake. Over 700 women having a First Nations baby received the innovative program, compared with only 34 prior to the study.

Continuity of midwifery care, or ‘caseload midwifery’, is where women have a known midwife care for them throughout their pregnancy, labour, birth and in the early postnatal period.

The caseload midwifery model offers a collaborative and coordinated approach, providing First Nations women the opportunity to have a known midwife who has appropriate cultural training to help them navigate their journey through the maternity care system, while maintaining their community and family supports.

The study showed very high levels of satisfaction for women having a First Nations baby. Across pregnancy, labour, birth and the early postnatal period, women reported very positive experiences of care – which was often very different to their previous maternity care experiences.

The Award for Excellence in Indigenous Engagement recognises “outstanding collaborations between tertiary education and Indigenous communities in Australia, New Zealand and beyond, that directly reduce disadvantage, and empower and give voice to First Nations peoples.”

The Award was presented at a gala dinner held in Sydney as part of the Engagement Australia Conference; the work of 24 finalists across seven award categories were celebrated.

More on the program here.

Media contact: Kate O'Connor, k.o', 0436 189 629