Empowering new program aims to boost numbers of Indigenous midwives

The Royal Hospital for Women has recently introduced two first-of-its-kind positions to increase the number of Indigenous midwives within the healthcare system.

Whilst one per cent of Australian midwives are Indigenous, their families account for six per cent of all births.

This brand new program, in partnership with NSW Health, TAFE NSW and the Poche Centres for Indigenous Excellence at the University of Sydney, aims to help close that gap.

Maria Lohan, a Midwife who welcomed and supported the initiation of this program whilst seconded as Manager of Postnatal Services at the Royal Hospital for Women, said the two new staff members, Mel Traill and Narelle Brown, are a wonderful asset not only to the hospital but to the wider healthcare system.

“Ms Traill and Ms Brown bring with them valuable life experience, together with wisdom that is coloured by the unique lenses they use as proud Aboriginal women,” Ms Lohan said.

"It is important that we support our new staff members to realise their potential, as their contribution will not only improve the delivery of culturally appropriate healthcare to mothers and their families that come through our hospital, an Aboriginal workforce will also strengthen diversity within the wider healthcare system.”

After having six children of her own, Ms Traill realised her passion was for midwifery. Now, thanks to this new program she is on her way to becoming one.

“l actually always wanted to be a nurse, it wasn’t until I came to the Royal Hospital for Women when I was pregnant with my first child that it clicked – I’m meant to be a midwife. I was appointed an Aboriginal midwife to care for me, this continuity of care made the experience far less daunting, being looked after by someone who understands me,” Ms Traill said.

In her new role Ms Traill aspires to care for women in the same way that she was cared for.

Ms Brown, who has three children, said while there was no fault with the quality of care during her pregnancies, having an Indigenous midwife would have made her feel more in control.

"The additional support, someone I could just sit and have a yarn with, I think that would have given me a little bit of peace and allowed me to shape the whole birth experience around what my needs were more so than trying to fit into whatever was best for the hospital.”

Ms Brown said it is important to have Indigenous midwives as it will give Indigenous women more empowerment during their pregnancy and birth.

"Women are wanting to be able to know that the person they're working with at this time in their life, where they're very vulnerable, shares similar qualities, similar culture, has an understanding of what life is like at home," Ms Brown said.

Mel Traill & Narelle Brown with new mother Tungalag Buyanjargal & her 16-hour-old baby girl