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Molly Wardaguga Institute for First Nations Birth Rights

Student opportunities

We have scholarships available including two scholarships for First Nations candidates

Student opportunities

The Molly Wardaguga Institute for First Nations Birth Rights was established in April 2019 and is dedicated to the late Molly Wardaguga, Burarra Elder, Aboriginal Midwife, Senior Aboriginal Health Worker and founding member of the Malabam (now Malal’a) Health Board in Maningrida, Arnhem Land. 

The vision of the institute is to support women’s cultural and birthing aspirations, especially in remote locations through research and use this to dismantle existing structural barriers that result in health inequities.  

To respond to our First Nations industry partners aspirations, we have assembled a multidisciplinary team of experts across Australia to address inequities in the first 2,000 days (pregnancy to age five), including Indigenous methodology and knowledge holders, midwifery, nursing, inter-cultural communication, participatory action research, community development and investment, digital media, public health, health economist, biostatistician, sociology, anthropology, biostatistics, epidemiology, neonatology, implementation science, medicine, health services and translational research. 

Study with us!

We have scholarships available, including two scholarships for First Nations candidates up to $63,854 per year. 

Eligible MWRC students in Masters of Research or Doctoral (PhD) studies are enrolled through the Faculty of Health at Charles Darwin University.  

The full list of MWRC Supervisors can be found on Our people page.

For all inquiries, please email


Title: Birthing on Country: RISE SAFELY in rural, remote and very remote Australia

Project Locations:  

  • Rural: Site 1. Yuin Lands, New South Wales (NSW). South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation (Waminda) and Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital. 

  • Very remote: Site 2. Yolŋu Lands East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory (NT). Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation, Yalu Aboriginal Corporation, Department of Health, NT, Gove and Darwin hospitals, Australian Doula College, Red Cross, Care Flight. 

  • Remote: Site 3. Arrernte Lands, Central Australia, NT. Congress Alukura and NT Health, Alice Springs Hospital. 

  • All sites: Students can also be based at the sites or in Molly Wardaguga Research Centre offices in Darwin, Alice Springs or Brisbane. 

Project Summary 

Our translational research project will establish Australia’s exemplar rural, remote and very remote Birthing on Country Services, to make a profound impact on Closing the Gap Target 2: First Nations children are born healthy and strong. This First Nations led, co-designed study aims to establish exemplar Birthing on Country maternal child health services in rural, remote and very remote Australia in 5 years. We will translate existing knowledge on culturally safe maternity care, that saw unprecedented success in an urban site, into three unique settings to increase protective factors for birthing women and babies across the first 1000 days, improve outcomes, focus on preventing preterm birth, and make a profound impact on multiple outcomes. Our interdisciplinary team includes cultural knowledge holders, CEOs, policy advisors, clinicians, managers, health service researchers and consumers. 

We are currently seeking passionate Master and PhD students who are willing to undertake intellectual adventures and work on complex intercultural reproductive health topics. Our students become skilled in using decolonising, quantitative and qualitative methodologies; and gain first hand experience working in genuine relationship with the community. We offer students a supportive learning environment with expert mentorship and the chance to contribute towards making a more equitable World!  

Our health services research includes qualitative and quantitative approaches in many areas in is underpinned by the RISE Framework that has four pillars with projects available in all areas: 

  • Redesign the health service 

  • Invest in the workforce

  • Strengthen families; and 

  • Embed Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community governance and control. 

The Indigenous Birthing in an Urban Setting Study

Birthing on Country | Projects | Indigenous Birthing in an Urban Setting

The Indigenous Birthing in an Urban Setting (IBUS) study aims to evaluate models of maternity care for woman having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) babies in South East Queensland. It is a partnership project developed by three Brisbane-based organisations: The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), the Mater Health Service (MHS), and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane Ltd, in collaborative with the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Ngarrama Indigenous Service. This was a 5-year NHMRC funded study (2015-2019), with over 600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families recruited.  The study saw women birthing through the Birthing in Our Community service have a profound reduction in preterm birth, increased breastfeeding and antenatal attendance, compared to other women having First Nations babies through standard care. There is potential for RHD students (MResearch and/or PhD) to work with rich datasets using routinely collected clinical data, survey & interview data with women and staff.  

Building on Our Strengths (BOOSt)

Birthing on Country | Projects | Building on our strengths

Building on Our Strengths (BOOSt) is about developing and evaluating a Birthing On Country Service for First Nations Australians, with integrated Community Hub and Birth Centre, to determine effects on maternal and infant health outcomes 

BOOSt is a 5-year NH&MRC funded action research, mixed-methods study that aims to develop, implement and evaluate Birthing on Country (BOC) services with First Nations Communities. 

BOOSt has two broad components: 
(i) development and implementation of new maternity services models 
(ii) research and evaluation (including process evaluation, and a historical (baseline) cohort comparison). 

BOOSt is being conducted across two settings: urban (Brisbane, QLD) and rural (Nowra, NSW), involving a redesign of maternity care, with pre- and post-intervention data being analysed to determine the impact on our primary and secondary outcomes.  The new service models are phased, aiming for integrated Community hubs and birth centres. 

BOOSt will determine the: 

  1. feasibility of establishing the Birthing on Country Service, inclusive of a birth centre, at each site 

  2. acceptability of services for women, their communities and health service providers (local and referral service) 

  3. clinical and cultural safety, effectiveness and cost of services 

  4. key processes in establishing the Birthing on Country Service and creating sustainability

Additional to the maternity records data sets obtained for this study, we recruit women having First Nations babies to complete antenatal and postnatal surveys about their maternity care experiences and other relevant aspects of their lives.  Qualitative interviews will be conducted with women and families accessing the services, and with healthcare providers and stakeholders, to inform changes and recommendations for service provision and planning. 

Potential Project Topics: 

  1. My Story: Birthing on Country for women in the Illawarra/Shoalhaven 

  2. Birthing on Country: Stakeholder perspectives and experiences in rural NSW 

  3. Birthing on Country: Stakeholder perspectives and experience in urban Qld site 

  4. Birthing on Country for Dads 

  5. Perinatal outcomes: baseline data analysis (2013-2020) 

  6. Discrimination: exploring the impact of everyday discrimination and/or discrimination in the healthcare context 

  7. Connecting to Culture & identity 

  8. Decolonising in practice: exploration of intellectual and emotional work 

  9. Decolonising the health system and healthcare institutions in regional NSW 

Alison Mary Jackson and Nancy Rosemary Kingsland Scholarship

Sisters Nancy Kingsland and Alison Jackson - Valued CDU Bequestors

Charles Darwin University established the Alison Mary Jackson and Nancy Rosemary Kingsland Scholarship after having received a bequest of more than $1 million from the estate of a generous 96-year-old Sydney woman. The late Miss Nancy Kingsland specified in her will that the funds were to be used for the recruitment and retention of remote Indigenous students into higher education.

This scholarship is to financially support the recruitment, retention and return of Indigenous Students from regional and remote communities into higher education and post-graduate courses in the areas of Nursing, Primary Health, and Land Care Management. 

More information

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