A four-year study will identify the needs of Aboriginal women during pregnancy and birthing in Perth hospitals and help to map out the process more sensitively for Aboriginal mothers.

Previous research showed only nine of 51 health services in Western Australia were culturally responsive to the needs of Aboriginal women, and just 200 of 1800 women had access to culturally responsive services. Further, few midwifery courses include comprehensive cultural awareness training.

Chair of Nursing Professor Leanne Monterosso from St John of God Murdoch Hospital says the study aims to find a more culturally sensitive approach to fully understand what Aboriginal women need when they are giving birth either in public
or private hospitals in the city.

“We are very excited to be involved in this Murdoch University project which will form a basis for educating midwives on how to create an environment that is culturally secure as well as medically safe for mothers,” said Professor Monterosso.

“We want to ask Aboriginal women how we can improve their experience and create clinical guidelines and policies so we can meet their needs throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond.”

The lead researcher on the project, Professor Rhonda Marriott from Murdoch University, says ‘birthing on country’, which ensures a spiritual connection to the land for the mother and her baby, will be central to the project.

“We predict there will be other considerations that will arise as a result of our research that will enable us to tailor education for midwives,” says Professor Marriott.

The study, funded by a $1 million National Health and Medical Research Council grant, will be contributed to by 13 stakeholders and funding partners from the health care and tertiary sector.

A total of 40 – 60 Aboriginal women will be interviewed in the study. Staff at St John of God Murdoch Hospital will recruit patients at the hospital and approximately six clinical and administrative staff will be interviewed.


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