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RDN supports Indigenous birthing program

7th July 2021

NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) is supporting Waminda South Coast Women's Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation to deliver a culturally-led Birthing on Country program through its Outreach and Health Workforce Scholarship Programs (HWSP).


"RDN aspires for ongoing cooperative and collaborative relationships with Aboriginal communities across NSW.

 This program is a fantastic example of how we support community-driven healthcare solutions,” said Claire O’Neill, Manager Outreach Services at RDN.

Melanie Briggs, Waminda’s Birthing on Country Project Officer, and a descendant of the Dharawal and Gumbaynggirr people, explains the importance of holistic, culturally safe care.

“Birthing on Country is about providing care that is culturally centred, that makes women feel strong in themselves and helps them heal from the past generational traumas,” she explains.

“Our program is much broader than maternity care alone, addressing the social determinants of health in Aboriginal mothers and their children up until the age they start school,” she said.

Waminda’s Birthing on Country Program is a model of care provided to Aboriginal women and their families, placing country and culture at its centre. It offers wrap-around maternity support in the community and in hospital with intrapartum birth care followed by postnatal, child and family health care for up to five years of age.

The service is offered from Waminda’s Minga Gudjaga Midwifery Practice in Nowra and is also extended to smaller, more remote communities via outreach clinics. Financial support from RDN’s Outreach Program helps enable Waminda to offer this service to their community. The funding contributes to services provided by a multidisciplinary team of 14 health practitioners working with Waminda, including midwives, Aboriginal Health Workers, GPs, nurses and mental health specialists.

RDN has also been able to support Melanie gain additional qualifications and increase her scope of practice. With help from the Health Workforce Scholarship Program (HWSP) she became the second Indigenous woman in Australia to complete a Master of Primary Maternity Care. Melanie is now using the expertise gained in her degree to deliver high quality services and drive Aboriginal-led solutions.

“HWSP-funded upskilling has supported me in developing Australia's Aboriginal-led maternity model of care, and the Outreach Program is giving me the opportunity to take it to our communities,” says Melanie. 

“I am now qualified to prescribe medications related to pregnancy conditions, and refer to higher levels of care. This means pregnant women can come direct to our clinics for the care they need, and don’t have to travel long distances, incur costs they can’t afford and see practitioners they don’t know. 

“But we need more Aboriginal midwives to expand these services. I'd encourage anyone out there who's interested in additional training to get in touch with RDN and see how they can support you," she said.


About the Outreach and the Health Workforce Scholarship Programs

The RDN-administered Outreach Program aims to improve health outcomes and increase access to multidisciplinary health services for regional, remote and Aboriginal communities in NSW and the ACT. It works to ensure health services are more affordable, easily accessible and culturally safe. The Program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

The Health Workforce Scholarship Program (HWSP) provides scholarships and bursaries to help health professionals in rural and remote Australia retain and enhance their skills, capacity and scope of practice. The Program is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Health, administered in NSW by RDN.


Image copyright: Waminda South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation 2021

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