BFHK-Colour- 400px

Creating connections: social and emotional support during pregnancy for women experiencing family violence and homelessness

Birth for Humankind

Supported beneficiary groups within Women & Girls
Age Demographic
Project Focus
Project Area

Project Description

Over 12 months, we will provide doula support and childbirth education for 50 women experiencing homelessness and family violence (FV), during pregnancy, birth and early parenting. The project will improve birth and early parenting experiences and longer-term health and wellbeing outcomes for those least able to access quality, continuous care in Melbourne.

Our program directly responds to international evidence:

  • In Australia, less than 8% of pregnant women have access to continuity of care, despite the known benefits. Women experiencing social and financial disadvantage are even less likely to receive this model of care.
  • They are more likely to experience poorer health outcomes, resulting in intergenerational health inequity.
  • FV is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children. More than 25% of those who experience FV say it first occurred or increased when pregnant.

We will match clients with a skilled doula. Working alongside the public maternity system, doulas are key members of the care team. We take a trauma-informed approach that recognises the individual needs of clients who have experienced violence and abuse. This helps prepare them for the transition to parenthood and creates a safe space for themselves and their children.

Our doulas will be trained on the specific complex care needs of people experiencing FV and homelessness. This will also be made available to midwives and health workers, to improve quality of care for all women impacted by FV.

Expected Outcomes

Through this program we expect all clients to report an increase in confidence and preparedness for birth and parenting, and an experience of respectful maternity care as a result of the support we provide. Evidence shows that when women receive one-to-one, continuous, practical, emotional and physical support through pregnancy, birth and early parenting—such as through a doula—they have better birth experiences and a lifetime of better maternal and child health outcomes.

This includes:

  • Children are less likely to spend time in neonatal intensive care
  • Reduced likelihood of medical intervention at birth
  • Mothers are less likely to experience postnatal depression and anxiety
  • Improved bonding between mother and child.

Our strong reputation for providing quality care to women in crisis has led to increasingly complex referrals. Last year half the women who accessed our service had experienced family violence and 25% of our clients were experiencing homelessness or insecure housing. Our conversations with referrers and partners in the maternity and women’s health sector indicate that there is an ever-increasing need for this kind of support. This program begins to address the gap in current maternity service provision. 65% of our clients are referred from public maternity hospitals – demonstrating their understanding of the critical, complementary support service we provide to women. This program will further build our collaboration with the public health system.

Project Data & Lessons

We have supported births in all public maternity hospitals in Melbourne and Geelong. These partnerships with community health and social support service providers, will provide referrals to the program.

We will use these networks and our online education resources to offer professional development training to workers who support women experiencing homelessness or family violence, to have wider systemic influence.

Data will be collected through:

  • Pre- and post-service evaluation surveys with clients, to document their self-reported shifts in confidence and preparedness for birth and parenting
  • Regular doula reporting and case notes throughout the service
  • Surveying and reporting from referrers and maternity workers
  • Statistical data capturing on the intersectional client demographics and complexity of care needs (contributing to a wider body of evidence of client needs)
  • Statistical data capturing on client referral pathways and proportion coming from within the public maternity system.

We will use the outcomes and findings gathered from this data to advocate to government, public hospital management and other community health providers to increasingly integrate non-clinical, continuity of support models—such as use of doulas—alongside mainstream maternity services.

Stories and evidence will also be used to inform public communications, to raise awareness of the issues. Data will also contribute to our monitoring, evaluation and learning frameworks and impact reporting.

Project Dates

Project Commences: July 1, 2021
Project Completes: June 30, 2022

Funding Details

Funding Needed
Current Funding
Total Project Costs
Approved Tax Deductability Status
Approved Tax Concession Charity
Other Funding Sources
Flannery Foundation, Argo Foundation
Other Support Opportunities
Impact investment, In-kind contributions, Pro bono services

Organisation Details

Birth for Humankind
ABN: d4cdc8bc80212d9993681d7b4b97bc03


Ruth Dearnley
Phone: 0411772949

About Birth for Humankind

The evidence is clear – social and emotional support during pregnancy, labour and birth contribute to improved maternal and child health outcomes across the life span. That’s why Birth for Humankind provides complementary personal, emotional and practical support to women across greater Melbourne who are experiencing social and financial disadvantage. We work with women experiencing homelessness and/or family violence, women from new migrant, refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds, women with mental health issues, and women with no other support networks. We provide:Doula support – matching clients with volunteer non-clinical birth support professionals (doulas) to provide continuous personal and emotional support and improve access to services. We support more than 140 women each year. Education – targeted pregnancy and childbirth education in community languages to increase preparedness and confidence for birth and early parenting and support women to navigate the Victorian maternal health system. Professional training – helping maternity care professionals provide improved support for women experiencing systemic disadvantage, extending our reach beyond those who participate in our programs. Research and advocacy – influencing the maternal health system to better support women experiencing disadvantage through research, programmatic evidence and modelling best practice in our work.

Related Projects

National Council of Single Mothers & their Children Inc

Financial Safety and Fairness for Single Mother Families. We hold the hand of the future, let it be free from hardship.

Led by single mothers, coordinated by National Council of Single Mothers & their Children Inc. The project will capture the lived experience of single mothers and empower them to drive the policy change
Documentary Australia

Under Cover - Documentary Film

Women over 50 are the fastest-growing cohort experiencing homelessness in Australia and Under Cover follows an eclectic group of these women who are tough and determined, while experiencing homelessness. Their moving but optimistic portraits lay bare the flaws in our...
Her Place Australian Women’s Heritage and Museum LTD

Her Voice Festival of Women’s Activism

Despite the high incidence and impact of homelessness and domestic violence we are rarely confronted with the reality of these issues. Your support can help us to make these issues visible and enact change by bringing UNSEEN and The Lost Petition to our Her Voice Festival of Women’s Activism.

Empowering young women through education to lead across sub-Saharan Africa

The Learner Guide Programme is central to scaling CAMFED’s impact across Africa. It addresses systemic gaps and challenges in under-resourced education systems. It sets young women school graduates on the path to economic security, while incentivising and shaping their support to the younger generation of children, both in school and as they finish their education.