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Elly Bradfield – Australia

Heartbreak and hope for women having babies in the bush

This story gave a voice to the heartbreak and hope facing people having babies in the bush. In 2022 the ABC launched “The Birth Project” to examine people’s experiences of pregnancy, birth and maternity care in Australia. What’s working? What’s not? And what can we do better? I didn’t want this project to be dominated by stories from the cities, so I examined the experience of rural women. Almost all regional mums have a story to share about how the tyranny of distance shaped this important time in their lives. Having a baby can be challenging in the best of circumstances, but for these women things went wrong while they were thousands of kilometres from help. Whilst juggling antenatal appointments and travelling hundreds of kilometres for scans, they were still doing bore runs, helping out with fencing and in the cattle yards, keeping the books up-to-date and looking after their other small children. While giving their life to the land, the access to services leaves them vulnerable during some of the biggest moments of their lives. The story shared the experiences of heartbreak and loss, while also highlighting the way a rural community wraps itself around people who need it. I took this approach because I wanted to emphasise the good, as well as the bad to give the full picture, and that the support women receive in a small town can be amazing and unique. The images, supplied by the talent, gave a glimpse into the intense emotion of the story, which featured Pip Clifford and Kara Marsh from Quilpie and Nicola Freiberg from Charleville. The story was produced from Toowoomba for the Country Hour radio program and the online version for the ABC News website, with a very quick turnaround. The story was completed in a part-time work capacity, on top of daily radio demands. It resonated with the audience, as evidenced by an outpouring of text messages and emails and social media posts. 

The story was praised for the sensitive way it handled big and heartbreaking life experiences of these rural women, who deserve to share their stories. While agriculture has 40 per cent female participation, rural news remains dominated by male talent. Elly has focused on sharing stories that matter to the women, who are the backbone of many rural operations.