Archived News Item


Late last year the Aboriginal Family Birthing Program in Country SA celebrated 10 years of working to close the gap on Aboriginal life expectancy.  Midwives and Aboriginal Maternal and Infant care workers (AMIC) work in partnership to maintain cultural safety and respect for women during the care provided for them in pregnancy, birth and postnatal period.  

According to the Findings from the Aboriginal Families Study in South Australia, 2015,  Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families experience markedly worse maternal and child health outcomes than non-Aboriginal families. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are three times more likely to die during childbirth compared with other Australian women, and two to three times more likely to have a stillbirth or neonatal death, preterm birth, and/or low birthweight infant.  

However, in the areas where the Aboriginal Family Birthing Program has been implemented, the program has expanded access to culturally responsive antenatal care for Aboriginal women and families. The positive experiences reported by many women using the program have the potential to translate into improved outcomes for Aboriginal families.

This month, at the 15th annual South Australian Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards, our midwives from Country Health SA received an award for best Clinical practice team. In accepting the award, Anne Foale rsm said:

Thank you to the Nursing and Midwifery office for making these awards possible.   It is truly a privilege to represent the midwives within the Aboriginal Family Birthing Program across Country South Australia.
As you can imagine it is an ongoing challenge and privilege working cross culturally to provide the best possible birthing outcomes for Aboriginal women and their families.  Other models have been tried in the past with very limited success.  Now it seems we have hit a on a really good model that is producing the outcomes that everyone is longing for: closing the Gap in life expectancy for Aboriginal families.  It is fitting to pay tribute to the Aboriginal women, their families and their AMIC workers who have contributed to the development of the program and its ongoing success.
We acknowledge the important partnerships between Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs); South Australia’s Aboriginal Health Council, the registered training organisation for the AMIC workers, the Women’s and Children’s Health Network and its Centre for Education as well as the various Health Service sites around Country South Australia.  And lastly, we acknowledge Deanna Stuart-Butler who is with us this evening, who is SA’s first AMIC practitioner from Port Augusta and is now managing the AFBP program for Metropolitan Adelaide.  This program would not exist if she and her AMIC colleagues did not come to work each day working with a foot in two worlds.  We acknowledge that this work is very much reconciliation in action.  
Thank you.

Messages to Anne Foale rsm

Bottom photo: Representing the Country Health SA Midwives are  Mrs Therese McCallum (left) and Anne Foale rsm


Archived News Item

Working to Close the Gap

I was born in cool and lusciously green Mount Gambier in SA in 1953.  I was the eldest of nine surviving children.  We lived between Mt Gambier and the western districts of Victoria until I was 10 years old, then we settled back in Mt Gambier for school at the local Mercy college. I had a great aunt who was a Sister of Mercy in Mt Gambier when I was there.  I talked about wanting to be a Sister of Mercy from about year 8 at school.  I left home and went nursing when my youngest sister was 2 years old, much to my parents’ dismay initially. 
I completed my nursing training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and before the graduation ceremony I was off to the Kimberley as a lay-missionary. Two and half years later I was back in Perth, WA, where I completed a midwifery qualification. By then my family had re-located to the West. It was about then that I knew I was ready to commit to something more.  I asked to be able to return to Adelaide and join the Mercy group that I had grown up with.
With no Mercy hospital in SA there was some freedom for me in pursuing community nursing, with a particular focus on mothers and babies. The urge in me to find something other than marriage and motherhood was influenced by many of my teachers at school particularly music teachers which one is often able to have a closer relationship with.  This was reinforced by my parents, grandparents and extended family members. Henry Lawson’s story, The Drovers wife, was a story that captured my imagination as I was growing up.  For me it told my mum’s story in some respects, and left me with a deep sense that woman deserved better in life.  This has formed a passion in me that extends to all new mothers, Aboriginal women, as well as the women of East Timor. 
This Mercy journey now finds me back in Port Augusta for the third time, and managing life and work in a much more sustainable fashion.   The years maybe taking their toll on my joints but my spirit is recreated every day with a mix of cross cultural challenges at work, a thriving garden at home, and all the music and singing one could ever wish for.

Last year (2013) I was privileged to have a few months of renewal time at Glenburn’s Eco-spirituality centre in Victoria. The most wonderful part was being able to slip into the rhythm of life on the edge of the Toolangi Forest, recently recovered from the Black Saturday bushfires.  The obvious regeneration was a lovely sign of hope for me, the unpredictable encounters with curious birds was a truly renewing experience. The gift of that time has stayed with me ever since… a sense of gratitude for life, the beauty in all things and the wonder of our created universe.
Back home with Elizabeth Young, the garden at 2 Hall Street has been transformed, names of local birds roll off my tongue as easily as ABC… and in this winter season in the north of the our state we are blessed with a green we rarely seen.  It could almost rival the Emerald Isle where we recently joined this years’ Mercy Ethos group.  That’s another story that can be followed through the Mercy webpage. 

Messages to: Anne Foale rsm