Australia birth scene

My two weeks in Australia was just what I needed.  It’s so difficult to get an accurate picture of the birth culture in another country without going there.  When I read blogs by Aussie midwives, I create an image in my mind of midwives with licenses who happily attend births at home and meet the needs of clients while having protection working within a well-established governing body.

The reality proved to be very different from my images.  Homebirth midwives are very few in number in Australia.  The ones who do homebirths are a feisty bunch but they are not protected. They struggle to keep options open to the birthing public while balancing safety, finances, and consumer satisfaction.  Most of the country’s graduate midwives work in hospital settings and feel the same frustration as N. American midwives who are employed by an institution.

The Australian government is making changes in the provision of health services that will affect midwives in the coming year and it seems to be a time of confusion and frustration about what actions can be taken to insure that homebirth remains available to the small percentage of Australians who use the option.  There are a handful of midwives in Australia who are self-taught and hold no credential but serve families completely independent of government licensing.  Services for the aboriginal people of Australia are lacking and many women are flown from outposts to larger centres to give birth far away from their family and friends.

I had the opportunity to meet with some of the women on the Joyous Birth website in Brisbane and Melbourne.  Joyous Birth is a website well worth visiting to find videos, photos and forums on all things birth-related in Australia.  Here’s a sampling of some of the photo montages they have put together:  Birth Trauma (graphic video about the grief involved with birth rape)



Homebirth Awareness Year 2008 will you birth? JB’s home/hospital comparison.’s Ordinary Miracle: Aron’s Freebirth…edium=text_url

Sage’s Journey to Freebirth by Sheree*Star…edium=text_url

Unassisted Birth of J

“Here comes the Sun” April’s freebirth of Sunny

Freebirth of Emmeline

MO3’a birth of Jack

Ayla’s birth of Riley

~*heket*~ births James, baby born still

Anastasia’s Birth Journey to UBAC

beloved’s montage of 2 births

Ilythia’s Freebirth of our Firstborn

Anise Luna’s homebirth

Janet’s freebirth of Isobel

Born Free – Tally’s unassisted waterbirth.

Homebirth – you can have one! Karrie-lou’s homebirth.

“Listening to rain” Saoirsewoman’s three births

Irina’s third birth


Long live babies! Stars lots of JB mamas!

Prevent Caesarean Surgery 


8 thoughts on “Australia birth scene

  1. Thanks Gloria for sharing with us what is happening with homebirth in Australia. As we knew it would be, our birthing option problems have not been solved with the legalization of midwifery.

  2. Thank you Gloria! for your years of birth work – You inspire and encourage me in my doula work. healing women, healing families, healing the planet one birth at a time.

    • the perinatal mortality at home was 7.9 per 1000 (even though of the 2 born at home one had hydrops, and from the others there was only 1 transfer in labour) and the mortality at hospital was 8.2 per 1000. No statistical difference over ALL risk.I would be interested to know what bad outcomes you really think could be prevented or treated early to stop a worse outcome and how often the problem happens at home Vs hospital. As a specialist Obstetrician you are not picking up the pieces, with a timely transfer you are just dealing with a complication as you would with any other birth. Some Obs recommend that if a woman wants a VBAC she stay home as long as possible and come in close to the end. SO, they would rather recommend No care at all than the care of a midwife in labour and birth.

      I am a very experienced midwife both at home and hospital and have never considered anyone who arrives at the hospital for whatever reason picking up the pieces. If a woman came in bleeding without a midwife that would be fine, with a midwife you are picking up the pieces? There is not a level playing field for women who want a normal birth at home. These women are well researched and more aware of risk than most registrars. It is a sad day when women no longer have autonomy over their own bodies . Homebirth IS a choice. Not like vanilla or chocolate ice cream but, like “Do I want to be responsible for my actions and my birth or do I want to hand it over to an Obstetrician, his time table, his sometimes individual non evidenced based likes/dislikes, the pressure to conform to hospital policy and the chance that I may have an induction before my baby is ready OR because it’s christmas OR as in the case of a friend an elective section at just 37 weeks because her Ob is going on holiday for 3 weeks and didn’t bother to tell her when she booked”. So if you want me to be your Dr you’d better book it in before I leave. I can understand that you are not pro homebirth but I am not pro hospital birth and am happy for you to get on with your stuff. I can’t see why you can’t support women in their choice so that if a transfer is necessary everyone knows their role and the birthing woman (who after all is the most important person) feels safe. I would encourage you to come along to a homebirth. Sit quietly and see how women can birth and understand why people like me, knowledgeable, professional, well trained and up to date, support those who want a peaceful natural birth at home. Acknowledge that, no matter what the rules, the medicare, the quality and safety framework , the harassment the victimization, the constant chasing and stress, women will always birth at home and it is far better if experienced birth attendants like me attend than that they are forced to continue alone if they don’t really want to. You could attend one with me. I am confident in my good practice and my clients are wonderful, strong, intelligent women who DO put their baby first at all times. I’m sure one of my clients would agree.

  3. I feel the care of most homebirth midwives here is already lacking to a certain degree, due to fear or being sued or having a license to practice taken away.
    For the most part the midwives I have experienced or have known of giving care that women are 100% satisfied with have been ones who are unlicensed or licensed midwives receiving lots of negative judgement from their peers.
    I don’t feel this is the fault of midwives themselves but a big fault of the health system that has never been addressed and many people seem rather unaware of.
    It is sad.

    Hearing you talk was wonderful.

  4. Lauren’s comment sounds eerily familiar to Canada doesn’t it? God bless those midwives who are willing to stand up to negative judgement from their peers.

  5. What a beautiful collection of birth stories, so many of those women are known to me and dear to my heart and are strong warriors for justice in this country. Hearing from you Gloria helps us get a perspective on the rubbish going on here – and put it in context as a global trend.

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