Saturday, January 08, 2011

Professional organisations and networks for midwives

Rally outside Julia Gillard's Werribee office 2009

In recent days I have had cause to reflect on the importance of various professional organisations and networks that are available for me as a midwife.  Here are a few:

I have had considerable involvement in each organisation listed here, and have held office in the Victorian Branch of the Australian College of Midwives, and in Maternity Coalition, and I currently manage the blogs for both MiPP and APMA.

It is a privilege for one to take on a voluntary role in community organisations, working together with other like-minded people, towards common purposes that are outlined in a Constitution, and are continually being refined in strategic planning over time.

A recent communication that has been distributed to leaders in one organisation has claimed that there is a conflict of interest when a person holds leadership positions in that body and other national organisations representing midwives, claiming that these other national organisations compete with each other for members, for government funding and for policy influence.

This is an extreme position to take, and in my mind, very narrow minded. In terms of membership numbers, or financial status, or any other measure, the only point of comparison between these organisations is that they are there for midwives, and are working for better maternity services. Midwives who are professionally active and committed belong to many professional networks, each of which provides segments within the bigger picture.

I do not support monopolies in professional matters.  The Australian monopoly of public funding for maternity care, which until two months ago, has placed every government $ for maternity care in the control of the medical profession, has not been in the interest of best maternity care for our mothers and babies.   Midwives can now be authorised to enable Medicare rebates on our prenatal and postnatal charges for private practice, and intra-natal care if and when we are able to arrange practising rights for births in hospitals.   This is a significant reform, for which all the midwives organisations and maternity activists have waited a long time.

There are too few midwives in Australia for organisations to expect of their members exclusive allegiance.  Groups representing midwives need to find ways of making partnerships, working together rather than competing, when scarce resources are on offer.  

In writing this post, I hope my intent is clear.  I wish to encourage midwives to be professionally active, and to think big.  Find a niche where your passion and skill can be used.  Work with others for the good of the society, and for the wellbeing of mothers and their babies.

Those volunteers who are able to take the big roles, whether they are called 'director' or 'president' or something else, can easily find a bottomless pit into which their energy and resources can be sucked.  These people can only be effective if they are accompanied in their endeavours by a team who respect the organisation, as well as the other individuals on the committee or board.  This does not mean a bunch of 'yes-men' (or women).  A committee can only function if members have their wits about them, and are able to articulate a position which differs from that held by others, from time to time.

I want to say a personal word of thanks to all who serve on the management executives of the organisations and networks that focus on improving maternity services through the promotion, protection, and support of natural physiological processes in birth and the nurture of infants.

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