First Nations mothers and babies have significantly poorer outcomes than non-First Nations mothers and babies.
A partnership between La Trobe University, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and three Victorian hospitals led to Baggarrook Yurrongi – a program designed to improve the health of First Nations mothers and babies through a model of culturally responsive continuity of midwife care.
The program ensures women have a dedicated midwife throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and the early postnatal period. This provides important continuity for First Nations women.
With a 90 per cent uptake by Indigenous families and participating women reporting very positive maternity experiences, the program has now been successfully implemented and embedded into the partner hospitals’ maternity services.
The program has resulted in some terrific outcomes, including helping to ‘close the gap’ with many more babies born at a healthy birthweight and gestation as well as reduced admissions to neonatal intensive care.
Finalists - Professor Helen McLachlan and team
"The Royal Women’s Hospital (‘The Women’s) is very pleased to support the nomination of the ‘Baggarrook Yurrongi” project for the above award. The Women’s is Australia’s largest specialist hospital dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of women and babies, with over 7000 babies born each year.
Despite significant advances in maternity care in Victoria over the last thirty years, First Nations mothers and babies continue to experience substantially poorer health outcomes than non First Nations mothers and babies. Working with our partners (La Trobe University, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and two other Melbourne hospitals) we successfully implemented a new culturally safe continuity of midwifery model of care that led to major improvements in health outcomes for First Nations mothers and babies. More healthy babies were born (less preterm births, low birthweight babies, special care admissions) and women reported feeling safe and highly satisfied with their care. The model also led to more First Nations babies being breastfed. The model has been so successful that we are now booking more First Nations women than ever before due to the overwhelming positive community feedback.
We are very proud of what we have achieved in terms of ‘closing the gap’ and are proud that we have a strong commitment to increasing the Aboriginal workforce and have had three First Nations midwives work in Baggarrook.
The Women’s is highly committed to Baggarrook and strongly support the nomination for this award. The benefits are undeniable."
Chief Operating Officer, The Royal Women’s Hospital
"Western Health is proud to support the nomination of ‘Baggarrook Yurrongi’ (Women’s Journey) – Improving the health of First Nations mothers and babies for the above award. Western Health is the major healthcare provider to one of the fastest growing and most diverse regions of Australia. It is the largest provider of Women's and Children's services in the Western suburbs of Melbourne with over 6800 births per year.
At Western Health we are highly committed to closing the gap for First Nations peoples. Given this, in 2017, in partnership with La Trobe University, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the Royal Women’s Hospital and the Mercy Hospital, we implemented a new culturally safe continuity of midwifery care model for women having a First Nations baby.
Our program, called ‘Galinjera’, provides culturally safe continuity of midwifery care for women having a First Nations baby and has been successfully implemented and embedded into our maternity service. Hundreds of First Nations families have received care through the program. Clinical outcome data analysed in 2023 has confirmed the benefits of the program. We have seen major improvements in health outcomes and have helped to ‘close the gap’ with many more babies born at a healthy birthweight and gestation. Women are also highly positive and satisfied with the model and report feeling more culturally safe.
We strongly support the nomination of the Baggarrook Yurrongi partnership project for this award. The program has made a major difference to health outcomes for First Nations mothers and babies."
Professor Tanya Farrell
Director, Maternity Services and Deputy Executive Director, Nursing and Midwifery, Western Health
"As a First Nations midwife and PhD student I have worked closely with the First Nations women who have participated in the Baggarrook Yurrongi program to explore their experiences of participating in the program.
As part of my research I have witnessed first-hand, the overwhelming impact of this program for women having a First Nations baby.
I strongly recommend this program for this award – it has truly gone a long way towards addressing the long-enduring problem of sub-optimal maternal and infant health outcomes for First Nations mothers and babies.
As outlined in the attached testimonials from First Nations mothers, this program has had an enormous impact not only on the individual participants but also for the broader community."
Midwife and PhD student, La Trobe
“My [caseload midwives] always took me seriously when I said there was a problem or there was something wrong and they stood up for me …and with my history, I have complications and I lost my previous baby...so it was really good to have someone in my corner speaking up for me.”
“Even on weekends I messaged them and they'd get back to me straight away and I think that's what us Aboriginal women need, do you know what I mean?”
“I talked through my birth plan with [my midwife]. Back on country the tradition is that no male person is to touch the cord while it is still attached. So I asked [my midwife] if in the worst case she could cut it, in case my sister couldn’t.”
First Nations mothers