Page 3856 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 November 2022
In 1981 a discussion paper entitle “A Birth Centre for Canberra?” was written by Marian Hambly, who was an ACT Health Commission senior research psychologist in mental health. Others involved in the 1980s include Fran Parker, Megan Evans and Roz Rebbeck, who later became the first midwifery leader of the Birth Centre. One of the most important outcomes from this time was recognition that the Birth Centre’s natural birth philosophy and model of care are just as important as the architecture.
In the face of considerable medical opposition, Janet Phillips, Aileen Conroy and a determined group of allied health professionals, women and midwives, started lobbying through Act for Birth in 1989. They were well supported by QEII and the Canberra Mothercraft Society, particularly Rhodanthe Lipsett, who I have had the honour of meeting several times and for whom the Australian College of Midwives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives scholarship fund is named.
The 1989-90 federal budget allocated funding to state and territory governments to establish alternative birthing services. I really enjoyed hearing the inside story at the birthday party from the first ever women’s health policy officer at the ACT Health Commission in 1990, about how they overcame the actions of those who opposed women’s health services, with an important role played by then federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Dame Quentin Bryce. We no longer need to have a women’s health policy officer specifically within ACT Health because it is something that runs throughout all our policy work.
Furnishings were acquired by Cathy Rumble and Janet Phillips, and a Birth Centre liaison midwife position was taken up by Debbie Cameron. Some of the midwives and GP obstetricians in the early Birth Centre, which opened in April 1992, were Suzie Nash, Cath Sansum, Susie Close, Ann Hosking and Peter Davis. Professor David Ellwood and his partner, Anne Sneddon, played an essential role in supporting the Birth Centre and midwife-led care during the 1990s. One change for which Friends of the Birth Centre advocated was midwife continuity, achieved by the late 1990s, so that women needing transfers to the delivery suite were able to still be cared for by their known birth centre midwife.
It was wonderful to celebrate with friends everything that the Birth Centre, their midwives and supporters have done for Canberra women, and particularly to hear from Bek Bowman. It is not just about health outcomes; it is about truly being with women in one of the most powerful moments of their lives and supporting the transition to becoming parents. I also want to personally thank Ingrid McKenzie for her guidance and wisdom as I learned how to advocate for midwives and birthing women. What a wonderful evening to re-energise for the next steps in the journey. Congratulations, Canberra Birth Centre.
ACT Law Society—events
MR CAIN (Ginninderra) (5.59): I am sure the remnant members love hearing me recounting my exploits, either through the electorate or through my shadow portfolios. This afternoon I would like to spend a few minutes recounting some of the significant encounters and events and developments in my capacity as shadow Attorney-General.