Today marks International Day of the Midwife, a yearly event celebrated on 5 May to highlight the extraordinary work that midwives do every day around the world in maternal and newborn health sectors.
This year’s celebration is particularly special as it commemorates the 100th year since the establishment of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, recognised the importance of midwives in an offical statement released today.
“Midwives are the front-line caregivers and backbone of maternal and child health care on the continent,” Dr Moeti wrote. “They support women through pregnancy and childbirth, providing antenatal, intrapartum and post-natal care, and family planning services, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings. In emergencies, they can also perform basic emergency obstetric care.”
Closer to home, the Sydney-based Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund (RLIMCF) have partnered with Huggies Sister Scrubs to launch a new initiative to champion the need for more First Nations midwives – who play an essential role in improving the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies.
First Nations midwives are given Huggies Sister Scrubs as a special uniform to wear as a symbolic gesture to their pride in highlighting the immeasurable work they do in providing vital care, reflecting the cultures, histories and backgrounds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies are two times more likely to die in their first year, while First Nations women are two to five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth, compared with other women.
Dr Rhodanthe Lipsett OAM was a midwife and author who believed in the importance of having First Nations midwifes working in the health systems. She knew that their presence significantly improved the birth outcomes and the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies.
RLIMCF provides scholarships and financial support for First Nations individuals who want to pursue a career in midwifery.
First Nations midwife and RLIMCF Scholar, Melanie Briggs, said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rates in Australia are “unacceptably high.”
“We know firsthand, the impact of having a First Nations midwife is immeasurable and can directly impact birthing outcomes and the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and their parents,” Briggs said.
“Visibility is incredibly important and we’re hoping the creation of the Huggies Sister Scrubs will not only highlight our cause, but actively help us deliver more culturally appropriate care across the country.”
The Huggies Sister Scrubs design is based on the original artwork by First Nations artist and Midwife, Leona McGrath and adapted by the Aboriginal owned and operated designer and manufacturer, Yilay.
The design reflects the story of RLIMCF midwifery scholars’ journeys to becoming a qualified First Nations Midwife and the vital role they play in health systems.
Leona McGrath said she is ’proud’ to be involved in such initiative with Huggies.
“This unique design will remind the community about our ambition to support Midwives in their studies, the importance of family and support networks and the incredible impact First Nations Midwives have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums and babies,” she said.
RLIMCF’s partnership with Huggies Sister Scrubs will ensure that the organisations continue their work of providing culturally appropriate care with the midwives it supports.
Managing Director of Kimberly-Clark ANZ (the company that owns Huggies) Belinda Driscoll said its partnership with RLIMCF “…uniquely highlights the important work First Nations Midwives do to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies receive the best start to life and have the care they need to thrive.”
“We hope Huggies Sister Scrubs will bring this issue into National focus, as a rally to promote the need for vital culturally appropriate care and greater representation of First Nations,” she said.
“Midwives in the Australian health system, with the long-term ambition for our Huggies Sister Scrubs to be distributed nationally in the future.”
Huggies have also partnered with Coles during the month of May, giving consumers the chance to contribute towards supporting the work of RLIMCF with $2 from each Jumbo pack of Huggies Newborn and Infant Nappies sold to be donated to the fund.
The partnerships aim at boosting the visibility of First Nations Midwives and the work of RLIMCF in broadening the representation of qualified midwives and carers throughout the country.