Help improve care for international students giving birth in Victoria

Hundreds of female international students become pregnant and give birth in Victoria each year.

However the experience of public hospital social worker and RMIT University PhD candidate K. Jane Middleton – who has worked with international students over many years- is that women often have great difficulty in obtaining necessary public health care during pregnancy and after giving birth, especially if they become pregnant within the first year of their arrival in Australia.

This is because most (although not all) OSHC policies impose a twelve- month qualifying period for pregnancy-related care. Even students who have completed the twelve- month wait can find that they are not covered for ‘extras’, such as ultrasounds, that are recommended by their doctor or midwife. Each hospital sets its own charges and some require ‘up-front’ payment before care is provided. Some women have also found that public health services can be reluctant to accept maternity bookings for women who are not eligible for Medicare.

Yet, most of the international students with whom Jane has worked manage to successfully juggle their studies and motherhood, in a new country and within an unfamiliar health system.

The title of Jane’s study is Pregnant, Parenting and a long way home: international students in Victoria accessing public maternity, paediatric and early parenting care. It aims to improve care for international students in Victoria during pregnancy and after their baby’s birth, by hearing women’s stories and by passing on their recommendations to services that provide information, advice and support to international students.

If you are an international student who has given birth at any Victorian public hospital within the past 2 years, your experience and your story are very important for this study, and you are invited to participate. Participation involves a semi-structured interview of approximately one hour with Jane at a time and place convenient for you. No identifying information will be recorded or released. If you have friends attending other universities or colleges who could be interested in participating, please pass on this information to them.
Jane’s contact details are: s3417133@student.rmit.edu.au or mobile phone 0409 339766.