Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Schools and Centres

Nursing and Midwifery

First Supervisor

Adrian Morgan

Second Supervisor

Yvonne Hauck


This qualitative study used a descriptive interpretive approach that drew heavily on the methodological underpinnings of interpretive phenomenology in order to explore the lived experience of Noongar women in childbirth. The aim of the study was to give voice to Noongar women, who despite having poorer outcomes than the wider population, remain marginalised and mute in childbirth reform. The purpose of the study was to acknowledge as authoritative, Noongar women’s wisdom and understanding of their childbirth experience.

This study was conducted at the cultural interface, by a non-Indigenous researcher who implemented a collaborative and power sharing model of enquiry. Ten Noongar women were interviewed from 2011 to 2013 from the city of Perth and two regional locations in the south-west of Western Australia. The study was grounded in the work of hermeneutical philosopher, Gadamer and was guided by van Manen and Creswell for interpretive thematic analysis. Five emergent themes revealed that women experienced increased levels of vulnerability; described family as central to birth; understood their present lives were connected to a past history that would influence future generations; were culturally challenged and experienced prejudice and racism at the time of childbirth. Each theme identified elements of tension and trauma, adding considerable negative physical and psychosocial load to the health and wellbeing of the individual woman. Moreover, participants descriptive experiences alluded to a western biomedical model of maternity care that continues to under represent the needs or wants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Despite the challenges experienced along the childbirth continuum, women described birth as a joyful experience. However, they did not experience woman centred care nor did they receive sufficient culturally appropriate options from which to make choices in the care actually received.

Insights gained from this study will provide a much deeper understanding of the birth experience for Noongar women so that clinicians, educators and policy makers can plan and deliver more culturally congruent and effective maternity care. The recommendations within this study, if adopted, have the potential to echo the voice of Noongar women throughout the maternity care debate in Western Australia, so that culturally congruent and sensitive woman centred care can be developed, leading to appropriately culturally aligned childbirth choices.

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