Charles Darwin University

CDU eSpace
Institutional Repository

CDU Staff and Student only

Paperbark and pinard: A historical account of maternity care in one remote Australian Aboriginal town

Ireland, Sarah, Belton, Suzanne, McGrath, Ann, Saggers, Sherry and Narjic, Concepta W. (2015). Paperbark and pinard: A historical account of maternity care in one remote Australian Aboriginal town. Women and Birth,28(4):293-302.

Document type: Journal Article
Citation counts: Altmetric Score Altmetric Score is 10
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar

IRMA ID 11381xPUB126
Title Paperbark and pinard: A historical account of maternity care in one remote Australian Aboriginal town
Author Ireland, Sarah
Belton, Suzanne
McGrath, Ann
Saggers, Sherry
Narjic, Concepta W.
Journal Name Women and Birth
Publication Date 2015
Volume Number 28
Issue Number 4
ISSN 1871-5192   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-84947484944
Start Page 293
End Page 302
Total Pages 10
Place of Publication Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier BV
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DIISR)
Abstract Background and aim

Maternity care in remote areas of the Australian Northern Territory is restricted to antenatal and postnatal care only, with women routinely evacuated to give birth in hospital. Using one remote Aboriginal community as a case study, our aim with this research was to document and explore the major changes to the provision of remote maternity care over the period spanning pre-European colonisation to 1996.


Our research methods included historical ethnographic fieldwork (2007–2013); interviews with Aboriginal women, Aboriginal health workers, religious and non-religious non-Aboriginal health workers and past residents; and archival review of historical documents.


We identified four distinct eras of maternity care. Maternity care staffed by nuns who were trained in nursing and midwifery serviced childbirth in the local community. Support for community childbirth was incrementally withdrawn over a period, until the government eventually assumed responsibility for all health care.


The introduction of Western maternity care colonised Aboriginal birth practices and midwifery practice. Historical population statistics suggest that access to local Western maternity care may have contributed to a significant population increase. Despite population growth and higher demand for maternity services, local maternity services declined significantly. The rationale for removing childbirth services from the community was never explicitly addressed in any known written policy directive. Declining maternity services led to the de-skilling of many Aboriginal health workers and the significant community loss of future career pathways for Aboriginal midwives. This has contributed to the current status quo, with very few female Aboriginal health workers actively providing remote maternity care.
Keywords Midwifery
Aboriginal women
DOI   (check subscription with CDU E-Gateway service for CDU Staff and Students  check subscription with CDU E-Gateway in new window)
Version Filter Type
Access Statistics: 162 Abstract Views  -  Detailed Statistics
Created: Tue, 26 Jul 2016, 12:45:31 CST