A lack of choice and control that Aboriginal women currently have over their birthing experience is the driving force for Griffith graduate Cassandra Nest from the Gold Coast.

WithInternational Day of the Midwife this week (5 May), Cassandra is currently the only Aboriginal midwife working in the Midwifery Group Practice at the Gold Coast University Hospital and one of only three indigenous midwives working in the Gold Coast area.

Close the gap as mentor

Her aim isto close the gap by actively mentoring indigenous Griffith Midwifery students.

“Current indigenous maternity services in rural and remote Australia involkve the removal and transferral of pregnant women from their communitry to a hospital between 36 and 37 weeks gestation to give birth.

“Aboriginal women are routinely removed from their land, family, culture and community to await the arrival of their new baby with little or no emotional, psychological and financial support,” Cassandra said.

“In indigenous culture a person’s relationship to their land, their totems, skin name and kin group are all attained through birthing and pregnancy and are integral to the dreamtime, the law and their holistic view of health.

“I believe that failure to adhere to traditional birthing practices creates a birthing environment which can weaken culture, contributes to the poor perinatal outcomes experienced by indigenous women and their babies, and cannot act as a true rite of passage for the newborn.”

Passion for maternity care came from home

An urbanised Ngunnawal woman, Cassandra said she originally learnt about birthing reproduction and woman’s business from her grandmothers and aunties, with it being through their stories and her own birthing experience, that her passion for maternity care began.

Alongside her mentoring of midwifery students with the same passions as herself, Cassandra is now aiming to study a Masters in Primary Maternity Care at Griffith with an intention to eventually take on an academic role.

“I am passionate about education and it has always been my dream to be involved in an indigenous based midwifery program for culturally appropriate maternity services.”

Gold Coast Health was thrilled to welcome Cassandra to its Midwifery Group Practice earlier this year.

Sue Rath, Acting Nursing and Midwifery Director of the Women, Children’s and Newborn service area, said it’s important for pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to have access to culturally appropriate care at Gold Coast University Hospital.

“Having Cassandra in our growing Midwifery Group Practice allows us to ensure many Indigenous pregnant women on the Gold Coast have access to a known midwife throughout their pregnancy and birthing journey with care in the home for up to 6 weeks following birth,” Ms Rath said.

“Our services are more in demand than ever before and attracting midwives like Cassandra to Gold Coast Health allows us to both deliver more culturally appropriate care and to build stronger links with community indigenous health organisations like Kalwun, where we hope to foster a partnership to deliver midwifery services from their facility.”