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Rosie

Rosie Downing

Year of Award: 2013 Award State: Northern Territory Health And Medicine > General
Health And Medicine > Obstetrics And Paediatrics
The Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship to observe successful birthing services for women living in remote communities - UK, Canada, New Zealand
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At the present time, around one in four women living in the Northern Territory, Australia, are expected to leave their homes, families and community in preparation for the birth of their child in a setting where there are appropriate staff and resources at hand (Thompson, 2013). Leaving their home is not without risk; the emotional, cultural, spiritual, social, financial and physical risks that may ensue in this arrangement are well documented in many studies, reports and research articles.

However, women and their families must juggle these risks with the risks of planning to birth in a remote setting with variable access to skilled maternity carers, appropriate resources and knowing the geographical barriers to accessing emergency care if it becomes necessary. For many families, there are also the inherent complexities and challenges of negotiating a dominant colonial health care system.

From a service provision point of view, there are many barriers to be overcome if maternity services are to be sustained in the remote setting. The oft-quoted ‘tyranny of distance’, inclement weather and its impact on road or air access, variable and transient population sizes, shifting government structures and funding, and the difficulty of recruiting and retaining skilled maternity carers are all factors that will affect how maternity care can be planned and organised, and what that care will be like. And yet, facing similar barriers and complexities, there are services in other rural and remote communities around the world who provide safe maternity and birthing care. This research project was inspired by a desire to improve the maternity services available to women living in rural and remote communities in Australia.

The generous award of a Peter Mitchell Churchill Fellowship allowed me to travel to Scotland, Nunavik, Canada, and Aotearoa/New Zealand, to visit midwives and communities who have successfully established and continue to sustain birthing services in their remote communities.

This report will provide more detail of these maternity services, the midwives and communities I visited, what I learnt from visiting them, and finally, how I plan to use these experiences and lessons to work towards improving maternity care access for families living in rural and remote Australia.

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