Monday, March 23, 2009

When we attack one another rather than working together

19 March 2009
One of the advantages of keeping a blog is that I can write whatever I want to. In this particular blog I want to attempt to address a matter of great concern to me.

Today's topic has arisen out of a message I received this week. Apparently several people who attended the same workshop as I did last weekend have reported that I said certain things with relation to the Maternity Services Review and the actions of the College of Midwives.

I am proudly a member and fellow of the College, and have held positions on the Victoria branch executive.

I don’t know what I said that could have been construed in the way that has been presented to me. I believe everything I said was consistent with what I have been writing - very publicly - on this blog and the MIPP blog

I don't know who has complained about me, but I hope they will read this attempt at clarification, and I hope it is satisfactory. I am writing to ask those midwives who may have misunderstood me to please work with me and the others in Victoria who seek to protect the rights of women to employ a midwife, and the rights of midwives to practise our art in the setting of our choice. I am very concerned that some midwives attack one another rather than working together towards our common goal. This is the behaviour of an oppressed group, and we cannot afford to waste our energy on internal fighting. We need to stand tall, and proud, as midwives who have a skill that our community will always need.

It has been alleged that I indicated a belief that RANZCOG (the College of O&G's) and the College of Midwives have done a deal to ensure the demise of midwives providing homebirth services.

NO WAY! Let me tell you what I understand and have said publicly:
I have understood from their press releases since before the Report was published that RANZCOG is opposed to 'independent' midwifery. RANZCOG has a statement against homebirth at their website (no link provided). It looks as though RANZCOG have successfully sold this line to the Review team. I know of no arrangement between RANZCOG and ACM.

It has been alleged that I have said the College of Midwives is not supportive of privately practising midwives.
NOT QUITE! I have stated openly that I do have concerns that the College may be unable to do much on behalf of privately practising midwives. That is quite a different matter from the College's support. This opinion was further enforced when I listened to the Minister on Insight. See my comments at

For this reason I have encouraged everyone who is concerned to take action now, and not to leave the work to the College of Midwives, or Maternity Coalition, or any other group.

I have been encouraging people to contact their federal MPs about why they want to be able to employ a midwife privately, and why they want to be able to choose homebirth, or employ a known midwife to attend them in hospital.

At the study day I requested and was given a few minutes for Janie Nottingham (Materntiy Coalition Victorian Branch leader) and me to speak to the group. We asked people to take the handouts that I had brought. Anyone who would like copies of the handouts can request one - please tell me your email address. Many of the hospital midwives who spoke to me said they had no idea of the national registration.

The matter of the Report's attitude to the women who choose to employ a midwife privately for homebirth has been summarised by birthing activist Bruce Teakle at

"Women choosing homebirth are a trivial minority:
A strong point [in the Report] is made of the small number of homebirths which occur in Australia:
P16: shows a graph of declining numbers of homebirths in Australia from 1991 to 2006.
P16: “Homebirths account for a very small number of births in Australia. In 2005, homebirth accounted for 0.22 per cent of all births in Australia, compared with 2.7 per cent in England and Wales, 2.5 per cent in New Zealand, and 0.6 per cent in the United States.”
P20: “New Zealand maternity data for 2004 found that, while 4.5 per cent of mothers had planned a homebirth, only 2.5 per cent actually experienced a homebirth.”

"The reasons for the small Australian numbers are not explored, in particular the great difficulty most Australian women have accessing information or care for homebirth.

"No comparison is made with other minority choices, such as caesarean section on request, and there is certainly no consideration of banning these choices.

"The Reviewers acknowledge the high number of individual submissions from women who desired greater access and funding for homebirth. Despite this, it appears the Reviewers have been more responsive to the input of those who want to control women’s choices."

Women (and a few men) who went to a lot of trouble to prepare submissions to the Review have been told that their views are not important because they are a minority. Would this be an acceptable response if it were an ethnic or religious minority? Not at all!

In conclusion, I hope midwives will stop and think before they attack one another in this or any other campaign. We may have different opinions. That's fine. We may think things should be done differently. That's healthy.

The fact is that the College of Midwives or any other organisation can only lobby the Minister for Health, who will make decisions about the actions that proceed from the Maternity Services Review. It's up to everyone who cares about the future of midwifery, and the maternity choices women have, to look at the Report and to listen to those who are writing about it, and form your own opinion. If you are not satisfied with the Recommendations made by the writers of the report, please make an effort to inform your local federal Member of Parliament. Together we can show that even a minority has the right to be heard in this country.

1 comment:

Joy Johnston said...

Lisa Barrett wrote this comment:
This has happened to me in the past Joy, which is why I have made it absolutely clear about what I think.
I feel that midwives working together would be ideal. I don't think that the college are working with Ranzcog for one moment but I do definitely think that independent midwives aren't on the agenda for our professional body. I think it is an important midwifery issue and I'm glad you are writing openly about it.
I also think it's a human rights issue for women and the right to chose. All women and not just those wanting to homebirth