Cultural respect in midwifery service provision for Aboriginal women: longitudinal follow-up reveals the enduring legacy of targeted program initiatives
International Journal for Equity in Health
Background Culturally competent maternity care provision to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was identified as a priority area by Australia's National Maternity Services Plan in 2011. While midwifery programs responded by including core Indigenous content and community placements in curricula, little is known about whether knowledge learned, and insights gained in response to these initiatives have endured and been applied in clinical practice. This follow-up study explores the
... explores the impact of a compulsory Indigenous unit and a remote clinical placement on two cohorts of non-Indigenous midwives who were participants in an earlier 2012–14 study. Methods Fourteen non-Indigenous participants who were either students or recent graduates in 2012–14 were located and re-interviewed in 2019–20. In-depth interviews based on a semi-structured interview guide were conducted by telephone or face-to face; recordings were transcribed and thematically analysed using standard qualitative procedures. Results Exposure to Indigenous content and settings during training had an enduring impact on participants' midwifery practice; most felt better prepared to provide culturally safe care, build respectful relationships and advocate for improved services for Aboriginal women. Despite this positive legacy, they also expressed apprehension about causing offence and recognised their own knowledge deficits with regard to Aboriginal cultural practices. Organisational constraints, including restrictions on the number of family members accompanying a birthing mother were identified as barriers to optimal care; some positive organisational initiatives were also described. Conclusions This follow-up study provides encouraging evidence that well-designed and delivered Indigenous content and community placement opportunities in midwifery programs can have a lasting impact on service provision to Aboriginal women, contribute to a more informed, empathetic and culturally competent maternity workforce and help catalyse health service changes towards more culturally safe care.