Culturally appropriate maternity care reduces Indigenous preterm birth rate by half


It is currently NAIDOC Week (8 to 15 November), a time to recognise and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National NAIDOC Committee decided to postpone NAIDOC week from its regular month of July, and move it to November.

The theme for 2020 is Always Was, Always Will Be. Always Was, Always Will Be recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.

This NAIDOC Week, Miracle Babies Foundation is highlighting the gap in premature birth rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, which is more than 50 per cent higher than that of non-Indigenous women.  

Miracle Babies spoke with Co-Director of Molly Wardaguga Research Centre at Charles Darwin University, Professor Sue Kildea.

The Molly Wardaguga Research Centre is a leader in First Nations maternal, newborn and child health. Professor Kildea was involved in redesigning an Indigenous maternity service in Brisbane that was able to halve the Aboriginal premature birth rate in just four years (Kildea, et al., 2019).

Co-directors of the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre, Associate Professor Yvette Roe (left) and Professor Sue Kildea (right)Pictured: Co-directors of the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre, Associate Professor Yvette Roe (left) and Professor Sue Kildea (right)

The evidence-based maternity service ran out of a community-based hub and was a collaboration between the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service at Woolloongabba, and the Mater Hospital.

Professor Kildea resognises that preterm birth is the leading cause of infant and child mortality and redesigning the approach to Indigenous maternity health could help introduce preventative measures and provide early preganancy care.

The holistic service provided a complex intervention with a high level of community engagement and ownership. It offered mothers a safe community hub to visit and receive superior clinical care in a culturally appropriate way, whilst also improving the coninutity of care from pregnancy to birth and even into the post-natal period.

The service found great success with word-of-mouth recommendations, rather than the traditional referral system. In just four years, the service observed a 50 per cent reduction in preterm birth for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Professor Kildea said she’d like to see more studies using this approach to Indigenous maternity health. If it can be adopted in other areas of Australia, where possible, it will help bolster support of its effectiveness.

Professor Kildea would also like to see a return of birthing services to Aboriginal and Torres Srait Islander communities; as well as promoting more Indigenous midwives.

Learn more about The Molly Wardaguga Research Centre's integrated, holistic and culturally appropriate model of care for all called Birthing On Country.

To find out more about this year's NAIDOC week, visit:


Image: NAIDOC Week (2020 poster) & The Molly Wardaguga Research Centre

References: Kildea, S., Gaoa, Y., Hickey, S., Kruske, S., Nelson, C., Blackman, R., Tracy, S., Hurst, C., Williamson, D., & Roe, Y. (2019). Reducing preterm birth amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies: A prospective cohort study, Brisbane, Australia. EClinicalMedicine, 12, 43–51.