Papua New Guinea (PNG) is Australia’ nearest neighbour, about 150 km from the top of the mainland and only a few kilometres from some of the Torres
Strait Islands. Despite its proximity to Australia, PNG has one of the highest rates
of Maternal Mortality. A woman in PNG is 80 times more likely to die in childbirth
than a woman in Australia. There are multiple intersecting reasons for this, including
lack of, or difficult access to midwifery services due to remoteness and geographical
The midwifery education program at Pacific Adventist University (PAU) is addressing
some of the access issues through taking midwifery to women in remote villages. The
midwifery students in the PAU Bachelor of Midwifery program undertake a 280-hour,
8-week Rural Health Care Practicum experience towards the end of their studies. This
year, the experience involved taking midwifery care up and over mountainous terrain
and over open seas to deliver care to isolated women and families, or as the students
describe – reaching out to the unreached. The midwifery students were accompanied
by their Course Coordinator and Lecturer.
The clinical practicum experience involves the students providing sexual, reproductive,
maternal, and newborn care to remote communities and also undertaking community assessment
projects like improving sanitation facilities, so their practicum has a lasting impact.
The five-hour walk to the village up mountains and over rivers contributes to students’
understanding of the difficulties these communities face in accessing Universal Health
Care and allows them to ‘walk a mile’ in others’ footsteps, thus developing empathy
and understanding of the significant issues faced.
This presentation provides a voice for the Bachelor of Midwifery students and staff
to describe their experiences and discuss significant learning resulting from being
together at the top (of the mountain) with women and communities in remote PNG.