Birthing On Country – What it means and why you should care!

Professor Sue Kildea

Director of the Midwifery Research Unit – Mater Health Services Brisbane and the University of Queensland


At a national workshop on ‘Birthing On Country’ in Alice Springs in 2012 participants proposed that the term ‘Birthing On Country’ be understood as: “a metaphor for the best start in life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and their families, an appropriate transition to motherhood and parenting for women, and an integrated, holistic and culturally appropriate model of care for all.” Critically, participants felt that Birthing On Country Service Models must drive system-wide reform that moves from being aspirational (policy) to actual (practice). Despite the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council endorsing a document describing the Guiding Principles for Developing, Implementing and Evaluating a Birthing On Country Service Model for adaption from remote through to urban areas the uptake has been slow, prompting a call to action from: CRANAplus, the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives and the Australian College of Midwives. This presentation will identify the key components of these models, describe the development and impact of an urban based model, provide an overview of the work of the National Birthing on Country Committee and discuss the opportunities for Birthing on Country in remote Australia.


Professor Sue Kildea is the Director of the  Midwifery Research Unit and holds a Clinical Chair in midwifery, a joint appointment between Mater Health Services Brisbane and the University of Queensland. She is a registered nurse midwife with clinical, management, policy, education and research experience across both acute and primary health care settings. She has spent many years working in the remote Australia, in particular the Northern Territory.

Sue is a strong collaborative researcher and many of her research projects aim to make a difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. Together with a Senior Elder from Maningrida in Arnhem Land she was a  joint recipient of the UTS Human Rights Award for contribution to advancing reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (2004).

Sue spent 11 years on the Board of CRANAplus and has long been an advocate for returning birthing services to the bush and back to Aboriginal Community Control. She is currently working side by side with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in several sites to progress the ‘Birthing on Country’ agenda.