When Stephanie Archibald had her two children, the midwives who attended the birth were so wonderful she was inspired to switch from studying a science degree to a Bachelor of Midwifery at Australian Catholic University.

“Knowing what I know now about our degree, they probably didn’t do anything outside of their job description, but at the time it felt like they had, and it made me want to be that sort of person for someone else,” Stephanie said.

Since coming to ACU the second-year student’s ambitions have been supercharged. Stephanie wants to provide quality, culturally appropriate health care to Indigenous women, which she hopes will empower them to find their voice.

“I had never been super academic and when I was studying my science degree I was barely passing, but since coming to ACU I have had a distinction average,” she said.

“Everyone at ACU has been really supportive and I now know that I can do a lot more than I thought I could.

“At the end of last year I started thinking about creating an event for midwifery students where elders could talk about experiences of traditional birth, especially as we were doing rural placements and some of us were going to be supporting Indigenous women.

“I thought it could help students understand a little bit more about what birthing in the Indigenous community means.”

With advice and support from the Weemala Indigenous Higher Education Unit at ACU’s Brisbane Campus, Stephanie established the ‘Birthing on Country’ forum, hosted by the McAuley Midwifery Society earlier this year.

More than 40 turned out for the forum, and the experience was so positive, Stephanie is discussing the possibility of holding a similar event on ACU’s Melbourne Campus.

“Before coming to ACU I would never have thought about doing something like that and now I’m thinking about submitting an abstract about the experience to the Australian College of Midwives Midwifery Students Conference next year,” she said.

“It was never on my radar to get involved in policies or with the Indigenous community on a much larger level than just working in my local hospital.

“We don’t have a very large Indigenous midwifery workforce, so I would love to work on ways to get Indigenous midwives registered by getting them through uni and providing support to help them.

“Now that I have started doing things like the forum and mentoring first-year students I think I can achieve more and I think we need strong Indigenous role models. It makes me want to get to that level.”

ACU offers a wide range of support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Students can study at one of the University’s many campuses in Brisbane, Canberra, Ballarat, Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide, or they can choose distance study. The ‘Away from Base’ program offers specific multi-modal study in midwifery, education and business.

There is also a range of scholarships and bursaries for new and continuing students across education and arts, health sciences, law, business, and theology and philosophy fields.