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Southern Cross Uni celebrates midwives with focus on Indigenous maternal care


Jessica Nelson
5 May 2022
Midwife Taneeka Thomas with daughter Pippa
Midwife Taneeka Thomas with daughter Pippa. Photo credit: Tiarne Carney Photography

Southern Cross University is shining a light on the rewarding profession of midwifery this International Day of the Midwife, emphasising the important role of Indigenous midwives in delivering culturally-safe care.

International Day of the Midwife is celebrated annually on 5 May, honouring the work and promoting awareness of the crucial care midwives provide to mothers and their newborns.

Southern Cross University course coordinator for the Bachelor of Midwifery Lisa Charmer said midwives aren’t only there in the birthing room, but have the unique privilege of journeying with women throughout their pregnancies to get the best outcomes for those involved.

“It's a very rewarding profession. It's a time in a woman's life and her family's life where a midwife can assist her in making that transition to parenthood by taking that journey with her,” she said.

“It's about gaining that trust and having the midwife advocate for the woman, and knowing what that woman is wanting for her birth and labour and in early parenting and being able to support her.

“Midwives not only provide care, but also assist woman in navigating the health system during pregnancy, birth and post-partum recovery.

“Here at Southern Cross University we have very high demand for our Bachelor of Midwifery. It's a very contemporary midwifery course delivered by professional midwives in state-of-the-art facilities, making it very popular.”

Lisa said this year’s celebration had an emphasis on encouraging more Indigenous people to enter the profession. She said Southern Cross University has recently partnered with Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) to establish the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Academy at Lismore campus where high school students study a school-based Cert III in Allied Health Assistance.

“This is really important for midwifery because we want to see more Indigenous students come and study and graduate and continue supporting women with culturally-safe care within their local areas, and to bring and share their knowledge with colleagues and peers as well.”

After graduating from Southern Cross University four years ago, proud Indigenous woman Taneeka Thomas worked at Tweed Hospital – the same place she was born – caring for pregnant and perinatal women from her country to help close the gap in Indigenous health outcomes. More recently she has worked at the Gold Coast University Hospital’s Waijungbah Jarjums Group Practice, supporting the establishment of the continuity of care program for Indigenous Women. She also teaches midwifery students about culturally-safe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander maternity care at Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus. Last year she gave birth to her first child Pippa – with incredible support from other Indigenous women on her own country.

“There were so many things that made me really eager to be a midwife, but I think the main one was that I was a teenager when my mum had my baby sister and I was with her supporting during the pregnancy and birth. The midwife who cared for her was actually an Aboriginal midwife who I idolised and wanted to emulate, so I enrolled in the course when I was 18 straight out of high school and haven't looked back,” Taneeka, from Banora Point, said.

“It’s very important for Indigenous women to have access to an Indigenous midwife. Being an Aboriginal midwife comes with a known, lived experience of being an Aboriginal person in the community. It gives women that culturally-safe care and empowers them in the health space, allowing them to overcome many barriers they face when accessing maternity care. This enables them to get the right care not only for themselves but for their families and their babies as well and creating better health outcomes in the community.”