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Applications open for Birthing on Country scholarships to support Indigenous midwifery students

Giovanni Torre -

First Nations midwifery students and graduates are being encouraged to apply for a range of Southern Cross University scholarships and bursaries totalling $60,000.

The scholarships and bursaries include two Birthing on Country Honours Scholarships worth $10,000 each and several Birthing on Country Placement Bursaries worth $2,500 each.

The scholarships will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Bachelor of Midwifery graduates to complete an Honours program through the Bachelor of Health and Human Sciences (Honours) at the Gold Coast or Coffs Harbour campus.

Students will explore Birthing on Country or midwifery education and confidence in providing smoking cessation information for Indigenous women in rural and remote settings.

The bursaries will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Bachelor of Midwifery students to attend clinical placement in an Aboriginal Health Service, additional to having travel and accommodation costs covered.

The scholarship and bursary are funded by a $3.5 million Birthing on Country/iSISTAQUIT grant provided to Southern Cross University by the federal Department of Health and Aged Care with the aim to improve Indigenous midwifery services.

Recipients will have the opportunity to be involved in Southern Cross University's Birthing on Country project through iSISTAQUIT, a program supporting pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are wanting to quit smoking.

Bachelor of Midwifery alumna and Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr woman, Taneeka Thomas, said she decided to study midwifery after following the pregnancy journey of a family member and researching the poor maternity outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

"I was really interested in studying midwifery and found there is a big hole in the workforce for Aboriginal midwives. I looked into the statistics for Indigenous women and children and how a big part of improving those outcomes is increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives," Ms Thomas said.

"The most rewarding experience is working in a continuity model of care, seeing women from the beginning stages of pregnancy right through to when they become mothers. Playing a part in such a big experience in their life makes the work so special."

Bachelor of Midwifery Course Coordinator Lisa Charmer said there was high demand for Indigenous midwives.

"There are significant barriers facing Indigenous women and babies in Australia, from higher mortality rates to having to travel long distances to receive maternity care. This project will assist in enhancing choice for Indigenous women," she said.

"Childbirth services are needed within Indigenous Communities. This is an issue Southern Cross University is aiming to address through the Birthing on Country project. I strongly encourage First Nations midwifery and Honours students to apply for the Birthing on Country Scholarship and Bursary."

Applications close on 1 February 2024. Eligibility criteria and applications are available online.

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