Mater’s Melina named ACM Midwife of Year


Mater midwife Melina Connors has been named Midwife of the Year by the Australian College of Midwives for her outstanding work in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes in maternity services.

Ms Connors is currently on secondment with The Office of the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Queensland Health as a Clinical Midwife Consultant for the Growing Deadly Families Strategy, which works towards ensuring every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander baby in Queensland is born healthy into strong, resilient families.

Ms Connors, who will return to Mater Mothers’ next year, said she was extremely grateful for Mater’s support of her secondment.

“I was hesitant to leave, but my colleagues and managers were very supportive, encouraging and recognised what I could offer,” Ms Connors said.

“I can’t begin to describe the growth I’ve had both as a midwife and a person in this time. The people I have met along the way, the communities, and places we have travelled to has been a wonderful experience.

“I owe thanks to the people who have supported and guided me in this role, particularly Sonita Giudice, who is also a First Nations Clinical Midwifery Consultant.

“Sonita and I share the same role within the Growing Deadly Families.”

Ms Connors estimates that her and Sonita have travelled approximately 55,000 kilometres scoping Queensland since February last year.

“I’ve felt very privileged to have visited with so many communities during our travels and to have gained an insight and experienced a small part of what the women who aren’t able to birth in their hometowns, have to endure with the commute, relocation and travel, to be in an unfamiliar setting having a baby,” she said.

“It’s about understanding what it’s like to be 36 weeks pregnant and having to relocate to another town, sometimes alone, being transported on a little plane, leaving your family behind and not knowing whether you will be back in 2 weeks, 6 weeks and if you have complexities with your pregnancy, this could mean you are away even longer,” she said.

“I have seen firsthand the positive impact that occurs when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, families and communities, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled sector and the Hospital and Health Services collaborate to co design and co-create culturally safe maternity services.

“We know, having the choice of Maternity Continuity of Carer models have superior outcomes for mum and babies, midwives are primary maternity specialists. Preterm births are halved when First Nation’s women receive care across the full maternity journey from a known midwife.”

Ms Connors said her experience as a Liaison Officer and Midwife at Mater put her in good stead for her seconded role.

“During my time as a Liaison officer and a Midwife at Mater, I supported and advocated for many women and families to receive culturally safe and supportive care. I learnt a lot at the Mater and that background and experience has really helped,” she said.

“For instance, for some women and families it may be the first time they are leaving community. There may be obstacles that we may not think of that can be a challenge or barrier to accessing the hospital to get to appointments because they’ve never used a lift. For consumers unfamiliar with the hospital, it can be a difficult place to navigate. The liaison officers are there to provide continuity and cultural support and to advocate for the consumers.

“One of the valued processes we do at Mater is for consumers who are coming to the hospital for procedures or care, the liaison team contact the consumer before they’ve left their hometowns, so there’s a sense of cultural safety, connection and familiarity before they arrive.”

The proud First Nations midwife and Gurindji woman from the Northern Territory says part of the learning for healthcare providers in Queensland is understanding what health means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and what is valued.

“It’s about knowing that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, health is not only physical but incorporates broader impacts on the individual, it is acknowledging what’s happening in the community, what is happening with the family unit, that culturally appropriate health care includes spirituality and connection or disconnection to country,” she said.

“It’s about understanding that hospitals haven’t always been a positive experience – acknowledging the impact of history for mob and being provided Culturally safe support and advocacy.

“We are continually building trusting relationships and providing Culturally Safe care for our First Nations mothers and their newborns, and for all other First Nations patients.”

Mater Mothers’ Hospitals General Manager Kerri Gane said Mater is incredibly proud of Mc Connors’ achievements.

“Melina is very deserving of her recognition and achievement,” she said.

“The work she is currently doing to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families is to be commended and will go a long way to ensuring future generations have the best start to life.

“Melina is genuinely committed to understanding the cultural, spiritual, physical and emotional needs of mothers and families across Queensland, and we look forward to her sharing these learnings and opportunities with us on her return to Mater.”

Ms Connors said she was looking forward to her return to Mater next year.

“My midwifery and liaison journey started at the Mater I trained at Mater, I’ve grown at Mater, and I look forward to continuing to provide culturally safe maternity care work back at the Mater,” she said.

Pictured: Melina Connors

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