Griffith University alumnus and First Peoples midwifery lecturer Cassandra Nest has been recognised for her work providing quality maternity care to First Peoples on the Gold Coast with the HESTA Midwife of the Year 2020 award.
The industry superannuation fund awarded the proud Ngunnawal woman the title during a virtual Australian Nursing and Midwifery Awards ceremony last night.
Cassandra – Griffith’s first Aboriginal Bachelor of Midwifery graduate and the recipient of various scholarships during her studies – has always known she wanted to be a midwife.
“Midwifery is my calling, it is what I was meant to be doing,” Cassandra said.
“This is more than just a job to me, this is my life and the lives of my community.”
Cassandra was instrumental in setting up Gold Coast University Hospital’s (GCUH) Waijungbah Jarjums Service alongside the First Peoples community, which provides support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their families from conception and pregnancy, and through their baby’s first 1000 days of life.
Several First Peoples Griffith midwifery students have the opportunity to undertake their clinical hours at the service and in the time Cassandra has worked at GCUH the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women accessing their maternity services has skyrocketed from three to more than 100, and First Peoples’ midwives employed by the hospital from one to five.
“I am these women, the women are my family, my culture, their babies are our future ancestors and I am part of the community whose experiences I am dedicated to improving.”
“The most rewarding part of my work is being honoured with the role of walking beside women and their families as their midwife whilst they bring our future ancestors into the world,” she said.
Passionate about boosting the number of First Peoples midwives, Cassandra pledged her HESTA prize money towards a scholarship that will include mentorship for a First Nations Griffith University midwifery student.
“In order to improve the experiences of First Peoples women and families they need to be provided with culturally safe care,” Cassandra said.
“Increasing the amount of First Peoples midwives not only provides the women and families they care for with access to innate cultural knowledges, it contributes to the cultural safety of the whole workforce as First Peoples midwives advocate for culturally safe care and can encourage others to do the same.”
Griffith University Head of Midwifery Professor Jenny Gamble said Cassandra’s contribution was generous and the award “testimony to her achievement and leadership”.
“Cassie is an outstanding leader in using her success to support the success of other First Peoples,” Professor Gamble said.
“She shines with everything she does and over the many years we have known her, she continues to go from strength to strength.”
“The whole team are completely with her for her journey and are proud of her accomplishments.”
Griffith University’s First Peoples Health Unit Director Professor Roianne West also applauded Cassandra’s achievement.
“Cassie’s leadership has been instrumental in transcending the boundary between the university and the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service to provide both culturally safe education for our First Peoples Midwifery students and a service that promotes First Peoples Midwives delivering First Peoples babies that way it used to be,” Professor West said.
Professor Gamble said Cassandra was a role model for other First Peoples who were looking to work in the health sector.
“Cassie demonstrates leadership through her natural easy style,” Professor Gamble said.
“She connects strongly with people and communicates values and vision in a way that enables others to understand the goal and the next steps.
“She is a wonderful role model for Griffith students in demonstrating how to span multiple communities and roles to achieve important outcomes.”
Cassandra is currently enrolled in Griffith’s Master of Primary Maternity Care and thanks Griffith University Health, the Midwifery at Griffith Team and the First Peoples Health unit and Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service for their continued support and dedication to improving the experiences of our First Peoples community.
Midwifery alumnus Dawn Reid was also a finalist for the Midwife of the Year award, recognised for her work providing quality antenatal care and other specialty health services to families in rural Queensland.