Childbirth is supposed to be empowering, but for many birthing people, it is not. For Indigenous women, immigrant women, and women of colour, birthing within the western healthcare system can be anything but affirming. It can feel unsafe. In this raw and challenging talks series, I host conversations about birth, racism, and cultural safety with changemakers working within the birthing sector to break down the structures built on colonisation.
This podcast is written and hosted by Ruth De Souza with support from RMIT University VC Fellowship funding.
You can listen to this podcast on Apple podcasts Buzzsprout, Spotify, Amazon music/Audible, Podcast Addict, Podchaser, Pocketcasts, Deezer, Listen Notes, Player FM, Podcast Index . You can also find it in your favourite podcast app with this RSS Feed. Please rate, review and share!
Listen to the trailer here
Recorded on the Bass Coast on the traditional lands of the Boon wurrung
Artwork by Atong Atem
Design by Ethan Tsang
Title music by Raquel Solier
Produced and edited by Jon Tjhia
Series 3 Episode 7: Carla Pascoe Leahy on connecting the past and future in the Anthropocene
Carla Pascoe Leahy recently joined the University of Tasmania as a Lecturer in Family History. She’s a contemporary historian who examines how the past lives on in the present, particularly through oral history interviews. Carla recently completed an Australian Research Council funded project on the history of Australian mothering over the past 75 years, looking at the extent to which first-time motherhood is transformative. Her latest research examines the ways in which climate change is shifting understandings and experiences of family: both in terms of reproductive decision-making and daily practices of child-rearing. Mother to two headstrong daughters and one unruly pup, Carla maintains strong connections to community and nature in her coastal town in regional Victoria.
Historian Carla Pascoe Leahy was surprised at how her own experiences of new motherhood were affected by the relationships and stories she was told by her own mother and grandmothers. In this episode, she talks about how learning about her past led to researching the experience of birth in Australia over the last 75 years. Carla discusses the importance of her local community, what she’s learned about being vulnerable as a researcher and how climate change is influencing mothering.
Carla’s website has extensive links to her work, but here are a few highlights below.
Carla Pascoe Leahy and Petra Bueskens (eds), Australian Mothering: Historical and Sociological Perspectives (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030202668
Kristine Moruzi, Nell Musgrove and Carla Pascoe Leahy (eds), Children’s Voices from the Past: New Historical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/978303011895
C. Pascoe Leahy, ‘The afterlife of interviews: explicit ethics and subtle ethics in sensitive or distressing qualitative research’, Qualitative Research (2021), https://doi.org/10.1177/14687941211012924
C. Pascoe Leahy, ‘Maternal heritage: remembering mothering and motherhood through material culture’, International Journal of Heritage Studies (2021), https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2021.1893792
C. Pascoe Leahy, ‘The mother within: Intergenerational influences upon Australian matrescence since 1945’, Past & Present Supplement 15 (2020) 263-294, https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gtaa041
Carla Pascoe Leahy, ‘Maternal metamorphosis: how mothering has changed in Australia since the second world war’, The Conversation, 17 January 2022
Carla Pascoe Leahy, ‘Looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift? Why not smash the patriarchy’, The Conversation, 7 May 2021
Carla Pascoe Leahy, ‘Childhood masked’, Arena Online, 8 October 2020
Carla Pascoe Leahy, ‘Eudaimonia: meditations on pandemic life’, Arena Online, 3 September 2020
Carla Pascoe Leahy, ‘‘Helicopter parenting’ and ‘tiger mothers’? Relax, Australian kids are alright’, The Conversation, 31 December 2019
Music in this episode includes ‘Tympanum’ by REW<<, ‘Can We Be Friends’ by Lobo Loco, ‘Untitled’ by Atlas Sound and ‘Dark Water’ by Nul Tiel Records, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 3 Episode 6: Ritodhi Chakraborty and Aline Carrara on intergenerational happiness and joy in an era of climate change
I am a mother and identify myself as a cis woman. I practice permaculture and grow food, medicinal plants and flowers. I am a massage therapist, an artist, a storyteller, and an activist for anti-colonial and decolonial practices. Both my personal and professional trajectories have been marked by the severe consequences of power asymmetries of local and global politics in people’s lives. My upbringing resulted in a lifelong commitment to socio-environmental justice.
I am a broadly trained social scientist and identify primarily as a nature-society geographer and human geographer. I believe land is the most fundamental entity that sustains all forms of life and earth’s systems, and thus one of the most important elements for a thriving healthy bio-socio-diversity. I am an advocate for ideas around pluriversalism and alternatives to development as ways to move beyond the reductionism of modernity and the oppression of ‘capitalocentrism’.
For the past 20 years I have been actively engaged in the intersections of human rights, justice, development, environmental change and land management issues in Latin America, working around strategies to tackle deforestation. I have broad experience in the Pan-Amazonian region, more specifically the Brazilian Amazon, where I have lived and worked with grassroots movements and indigenous peoples.
I am a feminist parent, itinerant farmer and critical scholar trained as a political ecologist and interdisciplinary social scientist and collaborate with indigenous and agrarian communities to explore pathways of environmental and social justice. For the past decade, I have worked with various universities, think-tanks, public and civil society institutions in United States, India, Bhutan, China and Aotearoa New Zealand on issues of plural knowledges, environmental and social justice, rural transformation, youth subjectivities, climate change and agriculture.
Synopsis: In countries where development has been tied to nation building, birthing more than one child has been viewed as antithetical to ‘progress’. In this episode, I talk with Ritodhi Chakraborty and Aline Carrara about living in Aotearoa and creating multifunctional equitable landscapes that might help address the challenges of climate change.
Together, we talk about foregrounding Indigenous people and people in post-colonial local societies rather than centring future thinking, Eurocentric environmental thought. We also discuss inter-generational parenting while living precariously in Aotearoa, and how caring for children and animals can prepare you for parenting, and the place of men in child-rearing spaces.
Watch a vimeo talk Ritodhi did with Prof Hirini Matunga on Indigenous Cartography and Land management in Aotearoa.
Read a recent publication by Ritodhi on climate justice
Listen to a radio interview Aline and Ritodhi did about their lives in New Zealand.
Music in this episode includes ‘A Box of Delights’ by Ketsa and ‘Something in the Air’ by HoliznaCC0, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 3 Episode 5: Janelle Da Silva on the right to be born into love
Janelle Da Silva (they/she) is a proud queer, multi-generational mixed-race womxn-of-colour who interrogates social change through the healing arts. They’re an interdisciplinary artist, producer, racial literacy educator, TEDx speaker, birth worker, ultramarathon runner and philanthropist. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally on TV, film, stage, festivals, radio stations and podcasts since the mid-1990s.
Janelle is currently occupying a long-term artist residency on unceded Woiwurrung Wurundjeri Country, at Brunswick Town Hall with Twosixty: Seat At The Table – creating,
producing, directing and performing in decolonising public arts events, workshops and productions. They’re studying toward a Masters in Art Therapy (MIECAT) and a Graduate
Certificate in Aboriginal Studies (University of Notre Dame).
Synopsis: Decentring whiteness and decolonising birthwork are central to Janelle Da Silva’s life and work. By challenging spiritual bypassing and cultural appropriation using critical race theory and anti-racism praxis, Janelle is committed to having inclusive and robust conversations about social location, and power and privilege in white spaces.
In this interview, Janelle talks about allyship, healing their own intergenerational trauma and becoming more aware of their intergenerational strength and wisdom.
Listen to The RMA Podcast, Episode 43: Running To Pay The Rent with Janelle Da Silva
Watch Janelle’s Pay the Rent TEDx talk
Music in this episode includes ‘Tymphanum’ and ‘Webbed’ by REW<<, ‘Something in the Air’ by HoliznaCC0, ‘Portamento’ by Metre, ‘Algorithms’ by Chad Crouch and ‘unknown title’ by Atlas Sound, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 3 Episode 4: Natalie Kon-yu on writing, birth trauma and medical sexism
Natalie Kon-yu is a writer, academic and editor whose work has been published nationally and internationally. She is the co-commissioning editor of #Me Too: Stories from the Australian Women’s Movement (Picador, 2019), Mothers and Others: Why Not All Women are Mothers and All Mothers are Not the Same (Pan Macmillan, 2015) and Just Between Us: Australian Writers Tell the Truth about Female Friendship (Pan Macmillan 2013). Her book, The Cost of Labour, will be published by Affirm Press in February 2022. She lives and works in Naarm.
Synopsis: What if you thought pregnancy was going to be easy, a breeze? If you had even planned an overseas holiday – but then suddenly, pregnancy became frightening and stressful, needing admission to a mental health unit?
Natalie Kon-yu – a Naarm-based writer descended from Italian and Mauritian migrants – talks about the experiences of medical sexism, birth trauma and medical mismanagement detailed in her book The Cost of Labour. She also talks about the ways in which motherhood is simultaneously exalted and undervalued In contemporary colonial Australia – and how she’s looking to challenge those norms. [Content warning: This episode addresses mental health, suicidal ideation, medical trauma and negligence.]
Read Natalie’s powerful essay in Overland: The most natural thing
Shelf Reflection: Natalie Kon-yu
5 Questions with Dr Natalie Kon-yu
The #PublishingPaidMe hashtag reveals how Writers of Colour are undervalued
Natalie Kon-yu is a feminist first
Buy her book: The cost of labour
Music in this episode includes ‘Salientia’ and ‘Tympanum’ by REW<< and ‘Dark Water’ by Nul Tiel Records, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 3 Episode 3: Aruna Boodram on abolitionist parenting and surviving the NICU
Aruna Boodram (they/she) is a queer, gender expansive community organizer and legal worker from the Caribbean diaspora based in Toronto. She is an educator and facilitator that works in anti-oppression, abolition, decolonization, fertility, queer and trans family planning and other trainings. She is the autonomous-single (by choice) parent of Surya Amaris, a thriving and resilient baby Sagittarius. Aruna is also the advice columnist for Shameless Magazine, council member for the Children’s Peace Theatre in Toronto and a National Family Advisor for the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation.
Synopsis: It’s tough negotiating the highly technocratic spaces of a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a hospital – let alone as the queer, autonomous-single parent of a micro-preemie. Aruna Boodram is part of the Caribbean diaspora living in so-called Canada. In this week’s conversation, we discuss the stress and uncertainty of caring for one’s baby in NICU, how the concept of abolition applies to parenting and how community organising can benefit from being family friendly and inter-generational. [Content warning: This episode contains conversations about medical trauma].
Read Aruna’s reflections on Medium about going into pre-term labour and getting a cervical cerclage. ***Trigger Warning: This post contains mention of child/infant loss, labour, birth, medical systems and interventions, burn out, body hate/blame, surgical procedures, loss, grief, family, ableism. Please just take care of yourself while reading. It may bring up things you don’t even know are there!”.
Children’s Peace Theatre in Toronto
Canadian Premature Babies Foundation
Music in this episode includes ‘Prevailing Truths’ by Ketsa, ‘Dark Water’ by Nul Tiel Records, ‘Nowhere to Be, Nothing to Do’ by HoliznaCC0 and ‘Webbed’ by REW<<<, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive
Series 3 Episode 2: Lucinda Canty on racism in institutions and birthing care
Lucinda Canty, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut. Her research interests are in maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity, Black maternal health, racial/ethnic disparities in reproductive health and racism in nursing. She completed her PhD in Nursing from the University of Connecticut in 2020. She received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University School of Nursing and nurse-midwifery training from Yale University. She’s also an artist and a poet.
Synopsis: As a US-based Black nurse-midwife, Lucinda Canty knows that nurses and midwives do not leave their prejudices at home. Implicit assumptions and biases follow them to work and wield a profound influence on perinatal care and patient outcomes. In this episode, we talk about the challenges of addressing racial disparities in reproductive health – and the power of bringing people into conversation about their shared experiences. [Content warning: This episode contains conversations about medical trauma and negligence].
Follow Lucinda on Twitter: @LucindaCantyPhD
Learn more about Overdue reckoning on the Nurse Manifest website.
Read about Lucinda’s house
Find out about Lucinda’s poetry and visual art on the Nursology website.
Music in this episode includes ‘Algorithms’ by Chad Crouch, ‘Dark Water’ by Nul Tiel Records and ‘Webbed’ and ‘Salientia’ by REW<<<, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 3 Episode 1: Cherisse Buzzacott on opening the door for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives
Cherisse Buzzacott is an Arrernte/Arabunna woman raised in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), NT. A mother and a midwife, she works directly with Aboriginal women from Central Australia and remote communities through Alice Springs hospital. As a midwife, Cherisse advocates for the rights of Aboriginal women to have autonomy and choice over their maternity care. Cherisse is a mum to Dylan and Douglas, and to Senna (living in memory). She lives 30km west of Alice Springs on her traditional country, known as Iwupataka Outstation. She lives with her partner of five years, Micha, her close family and a flurry of dogs and chickens.
Synopsis: Mparntwe (Alice Springs) midwife Cherisse Buzzacott has achieved a number of firsts. She was first in her family to graduate from university, and the first ever graduate of the Australian Catholic University’s Bachelor of Midwifery Indigenous course. To Cherisse, though, firsts are about opening the door for others. She’s passionate about supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives and health workers, and advocating for birthing on Country and culturally safe care for women in her community and from Central Australia. [Content warning: This episode contains conversations about miscarriage and stillbirth.]
Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Trust
Read her article in Indigenous X: I said ‘I’m in labour’ but no one listened
Link to Cherisse’s article in the Guardian: I supported other women to have babies but faced my own battle alone
Music in this episode includes ‘Salientia’ by REW<<, ‘Prevailing Truths’ by Ketsa, ‘Groove’ by Xylo-Ziko and ‘Can We Be Friends’ by Lobo Loco, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Listen to the trailer here
Recorded on the Bass Coast on the traditional lands of the Boon wurrung
Artwork by Atong Atem
Design by Ethan Tsang
Title music by Raquel Solier
Produced and edited by Jon Tjhia
Series 2 Episode 7: Eleanor Jackson on the poetics and politics of birthing
Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer and community radio broadcaster. She is the author of Gravidity and Parity and A Leaving, both by Vagabond Press. Her live album, One Night Wonders, is produced by Going Down Swinging. Eleanor is committed to developing and hosting events and experiences that showcase the diversity of both poetic language and writers and audiences. She is a former Editor in Chief of Peril Magazine, Board Member of Queensland Poetry Festival and Vice-Chair of The Stella Prize. She is currently Chair of Peril Magazine and Producer of the Melbourne Poetry Map.
Synopsis: To Eleanor Jackson, pregnancy and childbirth are formative practical, philosophical, and social experiences that connect us to life force and joy. The arts producer, performer and author of Gravidity and Parity brought a book and a baby into the world during the coronavirus pandemic. She joins us to talk about medical acceptability, shared responsibilities, and birth’s capacity to bring about new relationships between the body and the public that reflect and sometimes transform deeply held political beliefs.
Read Eleanor’s reflections in Women’s Agenda at the start of the pandemic lockdowns and her third pregnancy.
An article for Meanjin about how deeper engagement with pregnancy and birthing might influence our collective future over the next 80 years (subscription needed)
Link to her book Gravidity and Parity which is highly commended in the 2022 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. The book explores the narrative opportunities of pregnancy loss, pregnancy and early motherhood set against the unfolding experience of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Music in this episode includes ‘Me on the Inside’ by Ketsa and ‘Salientia’ by REW<<, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 2 Episode 6: Helen Ngo on bilingualism, the habits of racism and embodied experiences of parenting
Helen Ngo is a DECRA Research Fellow at Deakin University in Naarm/Melbourne, Australia. She holds a PhD in Philosophy from SUNY Stony Brook (USA), and works at the intersection of phenomenology, critical philosophy of race, and feminist philosophy. A mother of three, her recent work explores questions around bilingual parenting, as part of a bigger research project on racialised non-belonging and home-making.
Synopsis: To Helen Ngo, birthing matters because it’s transformative – for new parents and communities as well as newborns themselves – and provides new ways to experience and relate to personal and cultural histories. In this episode, Dr Ngo discusses language and its potential to open us to the world; her experiences as a new parent of reclaiming her ‘mother-tongue’ in order to facilitate inter-generational connections between her children and her parents; the process of developing a new sense of pride in her cultural heritage; as well as embodied experiences of race, white privilege and more.
Read Helen’s article Housing a sense of self: for migrant communities, bilingual school programs are about more than learning for The Conversation.
Find out more about Helen’s academic work at Academia.edu
Music in this episode includes ‘Snake’ by M.W.D. and ‘Webbed’ by REW<<, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 2 Episode 5: Nisha Khot on making a difference in obstetric care
Dr Nisha Khot is a Melbourne-based obstetrician who trained in India and the UK before moving to Australia. She holds appointments across the full spectrum of health services including Royal Women’s Hospital (a tertiary centre), Western Health (in the growth corridor of Western Melbourne) and Bacchus Marsh’s rural maternity unit.
Synopsis: Nisha Khot’s experience of working in women’s health in India made her determined to make a difference in the field. Dr Khot’s working experience across various medical contexts around the world, from India and the UK to Melbourne and regional Victoria, brings perspective and depth to her practice. Her current roles see her working across rural and urban settings, moving between education, practice and leadership. She joins us for a chat about health literacy, perinatal rituals, quality and safety in the healthcare system and the need to address systemic racism in Australia’s health system.
Notes: Just a note that the term “M&Ms” used in the podcast, refers to Morbidity and Mortality meetings. These are meetings where staff review deaths and complications in order to improve the quality of the care that is being provided to their patients as well as professional learning.
Please look after yourself, and access support if you need it, also see: SANDS Beyond Blue Lifeline
Music in this episode includes ‘Things Before Dawn’ by Floating Spirits, ‘For the Record’ by Daniel Birch and ‘Rabota’ by Victoria Darian and Alexei Kalinkin, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 2 Episode 4: Annabel Farry on finding the sweet spot
Annabel Farry is a third generation Lebanese immigrant to Aotearoa and considers herself Tangata Tiriti. Annabel is a lecturer, a researcher and has been a midwife for 23 years. She is interested in Te tiriti ō Waitangi (the founding document of Aotearoa/New Zealand), the history of midwifery, the ongoing resistance to capitalist and biomedical hegemony and the transformational learning and teaching that is required to become a registered midwife. She is a programme leader of BHSc (midwifery) at AUT (Auckland University of Technology) and a doctoral candidate.
Synopsis: Annabel Farry’s forte is in finding a balance between the personal and political, theory and practice, embodied time and clock time, and the physiological and spiritual. She’s a midwife, parent and academic, and a third generation Lebanese immigrant to Aotearoa who considers herself Tangata Tiriti. In this episode, she talks about facilitating cultural safety in birthing services as well as in midwifery education, validating the anxieties of birthing people whilst ensuring equitable care, and ensuring her children can claim their birthright of Te Reo – whilst acknowledging the loss of her Lebanese ancestors’ names and language.
Read Annabel’s research papers: Comparing perinatal outcomes for healthy pregnant women presenting at primary and tertiary settings in South Auckland: A retrospective cohort study ; Midwives’ decision-making around artificial rupture of membranes in low-risk labour and Pasifika women’s choice of birthplace
Music in this episode includes ‘Can We Be Friends’ by Lobo Loco, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 2 Episode 3: Habiba Ahmed on reclaiming power and joy
Habiba Ahmed is a second generation Somali, born in Melbourne Australia. She is a mother of two and a community advocate, mainly in the maternal health space. She feels strongly about protecting and advocating for women who are being oppressed during the most vulnerable period in their lives.
Synopsis: So often, health professionals focus on the baby, but birthing parents need nurturing, continuity and community too. Restoring power to Black women and reclaiming joy is what doula Habiba Ahmed’s work is all about. She believes in helping mothers to empower themselves with information while tuning into their bodies, learning to trust themselves and their intuition. Habiba talks about restorative post-partum care, what it’s like to be judged and treated differently on the basis of appearance, and the acceptance and support that a ‘whole of community’ approach can offer.
Follow Habiba on Instagram
Watch Habiba on SBS
Listen to Habiba on this SBS Insight Birthing Better Program
Music in this episode includes ‘Salientia’ and ‘Webbed’ by REW<<, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 2 Episode 2: Donna Cormack on transformation for Māori health
Donna Cormack has whakapapa to Kāi Tahu and Kāti Māmoe. She is a researcher and teacher at Te Kupenga Hauora Māori at the University of Auckland, and at Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare. Donna’s research focuses on racism and its impacts on health, issues of data sovereignty and data justice, and transformative and anti-colonial approaches to research and teaching in Māori health. She has been involved in monitoring health inequities for a number of years, including recently as a member of the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee (PMMRC).
Synopsis: Racism is a distraction from flourishing, says Associate Professor Donna Cormack, a Māori academic whose work attempts to transform health futures for Māori. We talk about obstetric violence, abolitionist approaches to healthcare reform, heterosexualism in birthing and the careful use of time and energy. Donna believes being connected to past and future generations of Māori scholars and Indigenous scholars gives her work focus.
Burgess, H., Cormack, D., & Reid, P. (2021). Calling forth our pasts, citing our futures: An envisioning of a Kaupapa Māori citational practice. MAI Journal. A New Zealand Journal of Indigenous Scholarship, 10(1), 57-67.
Donna Cormack, Sarah-Jane Paine. (May 2020). Dear Epidemiology: a letter from two Māori researchers.
Music in this episode includes: ’Salientia’ and ‘Anura’ by REW and ‘Can we be friends’ by Lobo Loco used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 2 Episode 1: Gina Bundle and Storm Henry on trust in hospitals
Gina Bundle is a Yuin/Monaro woman and the Program Coordinator of Badjurr-Bulok Wilam – meaning ‘Home of many women’ in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri Peoples – at the Royal Women’s Hospital. Storm Henry is a Pitjantjatjara/Wiradjuri woman who initially started studying linguistics/languages at Monash University then transferred to a Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Midwifery. Storm is currently a Clinical Midwife Specialist within Baggarrook Caseload, where she has been working since Dec 2019. She is interested in birthdays, birth politics and Eurovision.
Synopsis: Storm and Gina talk about working at “The Women’s” (Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne). The Women’s has a complex history involving the enforcement of the ‘Aborigines’ Protection Act (1869) which caused First Nations babies and children to be removed from their families, community and culture. How is it possible to build trust in institutions that have had such a damaging impact on communities in the past? Storm and Gina work to create an intersectional, culturally safe service at multiple levels and promote a whole of hospital approach. We discuss how they ensure birthing people have a voice and a choice within a hierarchical organisation and don’t have to hide their identities.
Read more about Badjurr-Bulok Wilam
Music in this episode includes: ‘Me on the inside’ by Ketsa and ‘Esse’ by Xylo-Ziko, used under a Creative Commons license from Free Music Archive.
Series 1 recorded at Windmill Studios in Melbourne on the traditional lands of the Eastern Kulin Nation
Sound design and mix by Regan McKinnon
Artwork by Atong Atem
Design by Ethan Tsang
Title music by Raquel Solier
Produced and edited by Pipi films.
Series 1 Episode 3 : Dr Mimi Niles on birthing bodies
Mimi (Paulomi) Niles, PhD, MPH, CNM, is Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. She is a theorist, educator, researcher and certified nurse-midwife. Her work explores the potential of integrated models of midwifery care in creating health equity in historically disenfranchised communities. She is trained in utilizing critical feminist theory, as theorized by Black and brown feminist scholars, and qualitative research methods as a means to implement policy and programming rooted in intersectionality and anti-racist frameworks. As a researcher, she hopes to generate midwifery knowledge as a tool to build equity and liberation for marginalized and minoritized people and grow the profession of midwifery in the US. She grew up in Queens, NY – the proud daughter of immigrants, has lovely two children, and honors her mother’s legacy as a nurse-midwife in India.
Synopsis: Dr Mimi Niles has described healthcare as a very large, vast, deeply problematic institution. The New York-based midwife and academic grew up in Queens, New York to immigrant parents and this experience has led to the belief that every sort of disparity and inequity plays itself out in the bodies of black people in the United States.
Follow Dr Mimi Niles on Twitter at @mi_niles
Read more about Mimi’s work here
Series 1 Episode 2: Karel Williams on birthing on country
Karel Williams, is an Aboriginal midwife based in Canberra, with family connections to the Palawa and Western Arrernte Nations.
Synopsis: What role does community play in childbirth? And why has childbirth become centered on the western hospital system? Karel Williams is an Aboriginal woman with family connections to the Palawa and Western Arrernte Nations and is an experienced Indigenous policy advisor and midwife who champions the culturally simple yet politically complicated practice of birthing on country.
Read more about Birthing on country.
Find out more about the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM).
Series 1 Episode 1: Dr Naomi Simmonds on decolonising birth
Naomi Simmonds (Raukawa, Ngāti Huri) (she/her), Co- director of Tūānuku Ltd, has an extensive research background and has expert knowledge on Kaupapa Māori and Mana Wahine methodologies. She is engaged in a range of Kaupapa Māori research projects pertaining to whānau (family) wellbeing, land-based learning, and tribal environmental management. Her research looks at the intersections between land, identity, and wellbeing. Her most recent research, through the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fast Start Grant, has involved re-walking 378km following the journey of her ancestress Māhinaarangi to understand the lessons, memories and knowledges that are embedded in the footprints of our ancestors. Naomi is a mother to two daughters. She is an avid reader, passionate writer and novice walker.
Synopsis: Difference, writes Dr Naomi Simmonds, has always been intricately woven into the fabric of her life. A Māori woman, a mother, an academic and a leader Dr Simmonds’ world is encased by the structures of western thought and colonial legacies. Yet from within this space she finds ways to champion mana wahine in order to empower and liberate knowledge systems that have long been suppressed by western power structures.
You can read Dr Naomi Simmonds’ PHD: Tū te turuturu nō Hine-te-iwaiwa: Mana wahine geographies of birth in Aotearoa New Zealand
I finally got to listen to [Karel’s] podcast this morning – it is great and I learned a lot! Loved hearing [her] thoughts on cultural safety as the final stop on the continuum of care, the limitations of cultural awareness lens, the impacts of birthing on country and the birthing in our community model, the links to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the future of midwifery. What a rich, integrated and accessible resource that podcast is!
Jenny Hutt, Australia
Ruth, I’ve only just gotten around to listening to this episode 🙈.
My gosh! IT WAS AWESOME. Not only is Nisha awesome but it got me right in the feels too. 🥺 Her point about birthing culture in India/ Indian society deeply resonated. I was so lucky to have Mum arrive here both times after my birth to care for me & bub for a few months. It kept me this side of sanity. As well as her observations on the experience of diverse professionals here. Calling it like it is ✊🏾 Her thoughts on diversity, racism & leadership were eerily relevant to my profession. Her words have given me greater resolve to continue my small efforts to be visible in my profession so that it will be easier for the next person. 🙏🏾 Loved all the questions you put forward and for always making sure that non-medical listeners can understand too. 💕🙏🏾
Sonia Sarangi Australia
Everyone associated with birthing care needs to listen to this podcast, especially those working in colonised countries.
Dr Pauline Dawson (midwife) NZ
Thanks for all your work. It’s provoked me to rethink the limits of both my reproductive politics and biopolitics. The podcast has introduced me to a lot of new ideas and thinkers I would otherwise not have encountered. I’m definitely gonna use this in my courses!
Gilbert Caluya Australia
If you work in health ( not just birthing) and are interested in anti-racism work this is podcast is outstanding
Bee Westenra Aotearoa
Listening to Ruth’s moving interview with Habiba took me back nearly 40 years to when I gave birth to my first child. My own mother had died early in my pregnancy, and my maternal grandmother died the day my baby was due. Habiba’s account of the Somali customs around caring for the new mother brought me to tears. The loneliness and isolation I experienced in those early months as I navigated the profound changes that birthing initiates was shattering. To grieve for my mother at a time when I had never needed mothering more was a cruel introduction to my own mothering. I cannot even imagine how devastating it would have been to be torn from my culture as well. A mother’s group such as Habiba runs, where mothers are embraced as they are; without the concern for presenting their ‘best selves’, which is so exhausting and such a waste of precious energy, would have been life-changing for me. I can only marvel at the healing that Habiba’s work must be providing for so many. I only wish she’d been around when I needed her! Thank you Habiba and Ruth for helping me to soothe and heal my wounded maternal self, realising another layer of what a trial I survived. May all mothers be blessed with the compassionate care that Habiba offers.
Ruth DeSouza listening to your wonderful podcast ‘birth and justice’. Loving your open intelligent hosting style and that you still intersperse your own knowledge to take the conversation to a deeper place which allows for both nuance and depth. Thank you for creating a nurturing intelligent compassionate space (podcast) to discuss these very important topics which allows guests to share and speak with openness and no fear of judgment.
Deepa Srinivasan, Australia
Do yourself a favour and tune into the awesome podcast, Birthing and Justice, by Ruth DeSouza. Highly recommended for anyone interested in all matters birthing and racial & decolonial justice. I’ve been listening today to what are the some of most intelligent, insightful, warm, and fierce conversations I’ve heard in this space. More of this stuff please. Helen Ngo, Melbourne
Ruth! loving this podcast so much, your warm voice full of wisdom and embrace is such a salve! ❤️ Naomi’s episode sooo strong, Te Reo shone through as a wonderful layer … it makes me teary listening to that language slipping seamlessly into everyday vernacular.
Beth Sometimes, Alice Springs
Amazing podcast talk Dr Ruth! it was very powerful when Dr Naomi compared the land and womens bodies. I have some friends who are going to love this!
Jayne Wood, London
I loved this – have listened to all 3! Please keep this important conversation going 🙏 thank you for your amazing mahi. I also love how the topics could be enormous but you manage to cover lots and lots in just half an hour… so a super digestible entry point to suggest as first step into education as well as balm and validation and further insight & directions to explore further to those already on this learning journey… very cool!
Vic Parsons, Maternal health coordinator, Capital Coast DHB, Wellington
This is a beautiful, thoughtful podcast with extremely high production values on an incredibly important topic. Conversations about birth in Australia are either non existent or really limited so it is wonderful to have this resource which brings us the voices of some of the leading practitioners in changing birth care. Ruth is a warm and passionate interviewer and brings the best out of her amazing guests. Episodes are tight and impactful. As both someone who has birthed two babies at home and a critical race researcher I love this podcast and will be recommending it to everyone I know.
Anastasia Kanjere, Melbourne
Dear Dr Ruth, I just wanted to get in touch to let you know I recently came across your Birthing and Justice podcast and really enjoyed it. I am currently convening an Indigenous Health unit and am very pleased to be able to use your episodes with Karel Williams and Dr Naomi Simmonds when we cover maternity. 250 plus students should shortly be tuning in! Ella Kurz, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Public Health, University of Canberra
This is a really important podcast on birth, racism and decolonisation. Each episode is powerful, informative, intelligent and warm. Each speaker contributes a dynamic combination of knowledge, experience and resolute commitment. Together the 3 episodes make a robust and hard-hitting combination. Thank you Ruth De Souza, Dr. Naomi Simmonds, Karel Williams, Dr Mimi Niles, and all who have contributed to this really important mahi.
Anna Fielder, New Zealand
This is a brilliant podcast Ruth – warm, engaging and decolonising, I love it! I’m not a health care worker, but you really struck a chord given my own experience. I’m passionate about midwifery care, especially midwifery group practice and home birthing where/if possible, and reclaiming control of our bodies from that default position of medical intervention. I hope this becomes an essential resource for students, practitioners and educators – congratulations.
Dr Natalie Harkin Senior Research Fellow, Flinders University.
If you still think birth is not political. It really frustrates me that when women talk about the significance of birthing there are still some feminists who think it is no more than some kind of middle-class competitiveness/internalised misogyny about vaginal birth versus caesarean or hippy indulgences. This is an amazing podcast series by Dr Ruth De Souza, who I have been friends with for a long time after we met through maternal feminism circles, and it is about birthing and justice. I think you’ll love it. Imagine being moved away from all your friends and family right when you are getting ready to have your first baby. What kind of birthing system thinks that is ok? Imagine going into hospital to have a baby when you and your husband’s mothers experienced babies being removed from them in hospitals. What kind of terror might a hospital birth hold for you? Imagine being an Aboriginal woman who wants to bring soil or plants from home in with her when she births in a hospital miles from her community. Does hospital policy cater for that? Will she be ridiculed or respected for the request?
What is the cost of failing to be truly woman-centred in birth? And what if your woman-centred birthing centre doesn’t include brown and black women?
Birth is political. Andie Fox, Queensland
Have started watching the podcasts – amazing guests so enthralling – an amazing resource you have created Ruth!
Dr Nimisha Waller, Postgraduate Programme Leader, Midwifery, Senior Lecturer, Auckland University of Technology
This is such a great podcast! Dr Ruth is a warm and engaging host and her guests are smart, insightful and grounded. And they’re so interesting! You always learn something new. The production quality is awesome. I especially like how this podcast opens up a reflective space to consider how pregnancy and birth care is experienced by people of colour and first nations people. So worth a listen.
Liz Stokes, Sydney.
Interview with Diaspora blues a show about home, community, and belonging. Hosted by Bigoa Chuol and Ayan Shirwa. Regular contributors Serious Meerkat and Cookie.
Blog about why I made a podcast reproduced by Croakey a not-for-profit public interest social journalism organisation and The Power to Persuade, a platform for discussion about social policy in Australia in a global context.