Birthing with Country – grounded in truth

Karel Williams, RM, B Mid., BA Admin

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.

The Council of Australian Governments committed to achieving 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 commitment, progress has been slow and inconsistent, and has not equalled the improvements in health achieved among non-Aboriginal Australians.

We know that pregnancy, birth and early childhood are critical periods for women and their babies and there is growing evidence that health inequity trajectories start early. We also know that there are many factors that influence an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander woman’s engagement with maternity services, such as the availability of culturally appropriate and culturally safe services, racism in health systems, and the lack of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals.


Karel Williams is a proud Aboriginal midwife based in Canberra, with family connections to the Palawa and Western Arrernte Nations. Prior to becoming a midwife, Karel had a long career in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy and program areas in the Australian Public Service, including one year on an executive exchange program working in the then Department of Indian Affairs in Canada. Karel has also taught and been a guest lecturer in tertiary courses related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, including health.

Karel completed her Bachelor of Midwifery 2014 and at her graduation ceremony was the inaugural recipient of the University of Canberra’s Tom Calma Medal. Karel has researched and published on the topic of racism as a determinant of health and is currently undertaking a higher degree by research at UC. She is a finalist in the 2019 Alumni Excellence Award at UC.

Karel is an active member and previously a Board Member of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) and is its representative on the National Birthing on Country Strategic Committee.