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CQUniversity launches Australian Birth Charter

Published:05 May 2020

The Birth Charter for Women in Prisons in Australia was launched on May 5, 2020.

The Birth Charter for Women in Prisons in Australia – a document that sets out recommendations for improving the care of pregnant women and their babies while they are in prison – will be officially released today in honour of International Day of the Midwife.

Developed by CQUniversity academics and led by Dr Adele Baldwin, the document is an Australian adaptation of the Birth Charter for women in prisons in England and Wales (Birth Companions 2016) and was written under license from, and in consultation with Birth Companions as part of a formal collaboration between CQUniversity and Birth Companions.

“CQUniversity has innovative projects in place around working with pregnant incarcerated women, which reflects the practical side of the Birth Charter and will promote the implementation of the framework in custodial environments in Australia,” Dr Baldwin explains.

Dr Baldwin said the multidisciplinary writing team worked alongside Birth Companions to produce the Australian Birth Charter for Women in Prison in Australia.

“The Australian Birth Charter adapts the guidelines from the original Birth Charter for pregnant women in prisons in England and Wales to the Australian context. The Australian Birth Charter for pregnant women in prison provides a set of guidelines for best-practice within which care for incarcerated pregnant women should be provided,” she continues.

“This Australian Birth Charter sets out our recommendations for improving the care of pregnant women and their babies while they are in prison. We (the authors) welcome input from policymakers and community service providers to make this a truly holistic approach that assists women to access support that enables them to parent successfully, overcome the health and social inequalities they face and address their offending behaviour.”

Dr Baldwin further explains that the Australian Birth Charter for women in prison is needed because it provides a therapeutic health care tool to create opportunities to support women and their babies who are marginalised in prison and can indirectly support their family in the community.

“A Birth Charter is one step that can bring a positive impact on women’s health and life experience during their period of incarceration and contribute to a constructive transitioning to parenting and childrearing on release from prison.”

CQUniversity’s Midwifery Head of Course, Tanya Capper has worked closely with Dr Baldwin on the Birth Charter and said that as per Birth Companions’ original intent, implementing an Australian Birth Charter was now more critical than ever.

“The Australian Birth Charter includes considerations for all mothers in prison, irrespective of whether their child(ren) are with them or in the community. How the Birth Charter is implemented in practice will be dependent on the government departments/agencies responsible for the prisons and the health service that provides healthcare for the individual facility,” Ms Capper says.

In the Australian context, state governments are responsible for the prisons and the health services, which in some states are also governed by individual health service boards.

“For these reasons, the information in this charter will be, in parts, general and further clarification will need to be sought from the relevant authorities about supports and services for individual facilities.
“We also anticipate expanding on the principles of the Australian Birth Charter for women in prison in Australia to develop supplementary guidelines recognising the importance of the role of fathers and proposing ways in which they can be included, within legislative and regulatory parameters,” Dr Baldwin said.