My name is Rhiannon Coppin and I am an Aboriginal woman from the Northern Territory. My family extends from Grove Hill to Alice Springs and originates from three Aboriginal tribes (Woolwonga, Kaytej and Arrente). My family were victims of the Stolen Generation and unfortunately, as a result we have lost our culture, language and spiritual connection to country. Therefore, my goal as a midwife is t assist Indigenous women to access culturally safe care and the ability to birth on country, allow them to form a spiritual connection to their land and community.
The 2016 Census shows that the Northern Territory has the highest proportion of Indigenous people in Australia and a large proportion of this population is from a rural and remote location. Our people living in remote locations have limited access to a range of services including employment, education, medicine and general health. According to the ‘Medical Practitioners Workforce’ report, there were over 100,000 registered medical practitioners in Australia and only 0.5% identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. This demonstrates there is a large percentage of Indigenous people whom may not have access to culturally safe medical treatment. In addition to our traumatic history, this may lead to patients not trusting or refusing medical treatment from non-Indigenous practitioners and/or people of authority in general. I have experienced this feeling of non-trust from people within my immediate family and it distressing watching my family refuse medical treatment, which has assisted me in my decision to practice medicine.
What does culturally safety mean? Culturally safety is a practice required by all who have contact with diverse cultures. It requires respect, support and empowerment of one’s cultural identity and the ability to accept their beliefs, understand their heritage and have knowledge of their history. By demonstrating this practice, will create a culturally safe space and willingness to seek treatment from both Indigenous and no-Indigenous medical practitioners.
Therefore, by become an Indigenous Midwife I will not only be able to fulfil my goal, it will also allow me to provide culturally appropriate care, creating a safe and trusting environment for all members within the community. By providing these, it will also encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access health care services with trust and ease, with the cope of ‘Closing the Gap’ in Indigenous health care.