CDU funded to tackle improvements to health services for remote Aboriginal mothers and babies 

Prof Lesley Barclay is part of a research team working with Indigenous women on ways to improve understanding of maternal and infant health and service delivery

The journey through pregnancy, birth and the first year of life for Aboriginal women will be tracked and analysed in a new study by researchers in the Graduate School for Health Practice at Charles Darwin University.

The research team was successful in its funding bid for the project, which will see clinicians, policy makers, anthropologists, economists and statisticians working with Indigenous women on ways to improve understanding of maternal and infant health and service delivery.

Professor of Health Services Development, Lesley Barclay, said her team had been one of seven applications ultimately chosen from 89 submitted to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for project funding under the Healthy Start to Life for All Australians Strategic Award.

‘Our project titled 1+1= A Healthy Start to Life was supported with $528,000 awarded for work over the next four years,’ she said. This will be supplemented by $45,000 financial support from the NT Government’s Research and Innovations fund.

The funding brings to more than $1 million the amount received by the Graduate School from the NHMRC, the Australian Research Council and Department of Health and Community Services and Darwin-based Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service for research into Indigenous health.

Professor Barclay says part of the new research will be to accompany pregnant Aboriginal women and new mothers on their journey through the health system in an effort to provide improved services.

‘Most Aboriginal women from remote communities give birth in hospitals in cities such as Darwin, which can be a frightening experience,’ she says. ‘They are forced to leave behind their support networks, and can feel alienated and alone in an unfamiliar environment.  Along the way they can be seen by up to 30 or more different people, which does not lead to consistency, so we want to understand how they cope with this and how we can minimise problems.’

The locally-based team will be led by Professor Barclay with Professor Jonathan Carapetis from Menzies School of Health Research. Other researchers will come from the University of Western Sydney and the University of New South Wales.

Aboriginal doctoral students will also be attached to the program.

Professor Barclay concludes: ‘This research is unusual. It tackles a complex problem by bringing together all the players. These include policy makers and clinicians as well as academics and community women, as partners in a team with the knowledge, skills and expertise needed for new thinking and ways of working to really make a difference.’

For further information contact Lesley Barclay on 8946 6974 or email