In Australia, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has committed to achieve life expectancy equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians by 2030, and to halve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths among children ages 0-4 years by 2018 . Despite this intent, overall progress has been slow and inconsistent, and has not equalled improvements in health among non-Aboriginal Australians.
The health disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is influenced by the effects of colonisation resulting in the current gaps in health outcomes.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have been advocating for many years that Birthing on Country will improve maternal and infant outcomes because of the integral connection between birthing, land (country) and place of belonging.
- Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women live in cities and major regional centres, and most give birth in a hospital or birthing centre, which is often not on their ancestral lands, despite the cultural and spiritual importance of doing so, and despite national guidelines which emphasise the importance of maintaining cultural values around pregnancy and birth.
- It is important that wherever an Aboriginal and/or Torres strait Islander baby is born, his or her mother and family are encouraged, supported and enabled to incorporate relevant cultural aspects within that place or service. Just as importantly, they should have access to maternity services that address their cultural, spiritual, social, emotional and physical needs.
The Birthing on Country model provides integrated, holistic and culturally appropriate care to provide the ‘best start in life’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.