ACT News


Publicly funded home births may be a good thing for the ACT: Chief Minister

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has given one of her strongest indications yet that a publicly funded homebirth service may be on the cards for the ACT. 

Ms Gallagher has signalled support for publicly funded homebirths in the territory and revealed talks around an insurance scheme for such a proposal appeared positive. 

"I think it's a really good idea for well women who are assessed as having the right pregnancy, being the right age and all those sorts of indicators and I think it is an option that some women want," she said.

Ms Gallagher said the "unaffordable" cost of insurance for a publicly funded homebirths had been the only barrier to providing such a service in the ACT in the past. 


What we were looking at was having to put aside $10 million every year into a fund that would be there should there be an adverse homebirth event," she said. 


"So for the very small number of women who were wanting it, it just seemed out of reach financially."

A group of women and health professionals formed an action group earlier this year to lobby the ACT government about providing publicly funded homebirths in the territory. 

The Publicly Funded Birth at Home ACT also started an online petition which has attracted more than 800 supporters.

Sally Ferguson, from the group and an assistant professor in midwifery at the University of Canberra, said a publicly funded homebirth service was about improving choice and options for mothers.

"If you're a well woman, having a well baby, having your baby at home increases your chances of having a straightforward birthing experience," she said. 

"If a woman has her baby at home, she has a 90 per cent chance of having a normal birth in Australia and a five per cent chance of having a caesarean. If a woman has a baby in a tertiary maternity service, she has a 56 per cent chance of having a normal birth and a 32 per cent chance of having a caesarean.

"This is why we want this on offer for well women having well babies because it just makes so sense."

She said homebirths could ease pressure on already busy hospitals. 

"If you're completely well and can be seen by a midwife at home and have perfectly good outcomes, then that woman really just should stay at home," she said. 

The ACT and Queensland are the only places where publicly funded home births are not offered.

Ms Gallagher said the ACT Chief Nurse had been in talks with insurers and early feedback appeared positive.

"I haven't got the final brief before me that says what we need to do, how we're going to put in place arrangement, what would it look like, how much it's going to cost," she said. 

"All the soundings are positive that we could potentially operate a public home birth service here but I haven't seen all the details." 

Ms Gallagher expects to have those details early next year. 

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury believed the time was right for the ACT to introduce publicly funded homebirths. 

"In uncomplicated pregnancies, home birth is a safe and healthy option for women and many people prefer it as a matter of personal choice," he said. 

"Most other states in Australia offer publicly funded home births as an option for mothers and certainly there's no reason we shouldn't be able to overcome those barriers in the ACT and provide here what is provided in the rest of the country."

Ms Gallagher acknowledged publicly funded home births may also be good for the public health system.