National recognition for seminal Aboriginal maternity research

Professor Rhonda Marriott AM

Leading Aboriginal health researcher and advocate Professor Rhonda Marriott AM has been recognised for her seminal research, Birthing on Noongar Boodjar, by the National Health and Medical Research Council in their “10 of the Best” publication for 2023.

Birthing on Noongar Boodjar investigated the needs and experiences of Aboriginal women birthing on and off Country in a project that brought together 18 investigators, 13 partner organisations and 11 members of the Aboriginal Advisory Group. 

The study found that more Aboriginal midwives and culturally secure models of care in hospitals are critical to closing the gap in maternity care and childbirth outcomes for Aboriginal women and families. 

The recommendations from Professor Marriott’s research were presented to the Minister for Health of Western Australia at the time and now Premier, the Hon Roger Cook. 

On that guidance, Mr Cook funded the establishment of an Aboriginal Maternity Group Practice at the Women and Newborn Health Service at King Edward Memorial Hospital, which became operational this year. 

Professor Marriot said it was deeply heartening to see her research reach this important point of industry adoption.

“Pregnancy presents an ideal opportunity for midwives and other health professionals to build respectful and authentic relationships with Aboriginal women and their families,” Professor Marriott said.

When this is done well, with cultural safety of service delivery at the forefront, the potential is created for positive engagement by Aboriginal families with health services." 

“This new practice at King Edward Memorial Hospital will advance that, by creating a culturally secure maternity services pathway for Aboriginal women that is being co-designed with key stakeholders and Aboriginal community experts.”

The adoption of the recommendations from Professor Marriott’s research is testament to the importance, practical nature and effectiveness of the translational research at the Ngangk Yira Institute for Change that she established and continues to lead today.

Professor Marriott joined Murdoch University twenty years ago in November 2003 as the inaugural Head of the School of Nursing – the first Indigenous person to hold this role in Australia. She has since been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia and inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame for her tireless work progressing culturally secure healthcare through nursing. 

Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Deeks said the NHMRC’s recognition of Birthing on Noongar Boodjar as one of the best research programs in the country was well deserved.

“Professor Marriott has been a tremendous advocate for equity in health and social outcomes of First Nations peoples for a very long time and it’s wonderful to see her recognised again on a national level,” Professor Deeks said.

The outstanding work she is leading at the Ngangk Yira Institute for Change goes the heart of what we are striving for here at Murdoch University – to be an exemplar in embracing and promoting Indigenous knowledges and cultural inclusivity."

“I share my warm congratulations to Professor Marriott and her entire team – you are doing important work and long may it continue.”

NHMRC CEO Professor Steve Wesselingh said their “10 of the Best” publication recognised the outstanding work and achievements of Australia’s leading researchers.

“Every day, Australians and people around the world benefit from the discoveries of researchers such as the ones featured in the publication, without knowing the journey,” he said.

“In showcasing this research, we hope to give much deserved recognition to the researchers who strive towards improving the health and wellbeing of all Australians.”

The Ngangk Yira Institute for Change is committed to this mission, with a special focus on transforming the life trajectories of future Aboriginal generations.

“Research has shown us time and again that a strong start in life is fundamental for healthy and resilient Aboriginal people and communities, so fostering this is central to our work across our three research centres,” Professor Marriott said.

“Birthing on Noongar Boodjar is one of many terrific projects focussed on positively building the health, social and emotional wellbeing, empowerment and self-determination of Aboriginal families, and communities.”

“We welcome everyone to be part of this journey.” 

Learn more about the impact of the Ngangk Yira Institute for Change.
Posted on:

29 Nov 2023


Science, Research, Health

Share this article:

Ngangk Yira Institute for Change

A strong start in life is fundamental for healthy and resilient Aboriginal people and communities. Ngangk Yira's research is determined through a partnership between Elders, community stakeholders, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers and focuses on complex issues in Aboriginal health and the achievement of social equity.

Learn more about our research.


Show your support

Clap to show your support for the article