Photo ICM 1984 © Pat Brodie

Pam Hayes

Interviewer: I’d like to go back to 1981 which is where I interrupted you some time go.

PH: Oh, it’s OK.

Interviewer: You’ve sold enough lamingtons and the conference is about to happen [indiscernible].PH: Yes. OK. Well… The conference was in ’84. ’81, we… We were awarded it and we had ’81 to ’84 to get ready. OK. It is an international gathering of midwives, to have a three-day conference around Council meetings of the international organisation who meet the Council. One representative from every member country who meet once every three years to talk about difficult financial situations. They’d had trouble getting their money. That— They were reliant on very small bickies from incapacitation fees and profits from conferences. But as I said, the ’81 conference had a big deficit. They’d had trouble getting their money out of Switzerland and Jerusalem. You know, they really were struggling in a cupboard for an office and things. So, it was a sharing. I’m not sure…

Personally not sure, that any conference is too much about the papers that are given, but lots about the contacts that are made. Coffee chats. The dinner chats. All those sorts of things. I don’t care whether that’s state, national or international, that’s where I think… But you do get some ideas…

And so, we had this conference that we worked our guts out to make financial. I was the Treasurer… There we were. We really were careful with every penny we spent and I was a little bit dictatorial about it. As to, you know, people get a satchel and they get some inclusions and what we put it in and whether we could afford it and where we got some money and those sorts of things. Victoria were exceptionally careful that the quality of the papers were good. Lots of European, Americans have rellies out here so it was quite good to come out. We had 1,500 people attend the conference. We had an opening ceremony in the Opera House Concert Theatre, at sunset, on a Sunday. Lots of press organised. But it was the… Father’s Day Massacre Sunday… What a bad day. But it was beautiful. And that seemed to set a tone. That went superbly. There they were. We’ve got photos of the sun setting behind the Harbour Bridge and midwives dressed for that opening ceremony in their national dress and they are beautiful and they talked and… We really had a gathering, of people. The rest of the time was spent between the Hilton Hotel and the Sydney Town Hall. And it was just great. It was a financial success. All the states had been gathering contingency funds. Didn’t have to give them because we had money. We were able to give the international body far more than we were liable for. The money that was over, it took a while, but we were able to set up a scholarship fund. The money in the contingency fund in the state, New South Wales set up a scholarship fund there. The people, on that international forum that were there, still talk about it. We had lots of goodwill and… don’t ask me any of the papers…

…It’s interesting isn’t it. We had a delightful representative from WA, a Judith Davis. She was giving a paper in the Town Hall. We had these beautiful floral decorations and one of those on a big stand. And she’s just introducing her paper… And suddenly from the other side of the stage, there’s a bit of movement with one of the flowers. And then, it gradually fell and went over and she stood there and looked and she said “Well… What about that?” She said “I was anxious about this paper and I asked my friends in Perth to send warm fuzzies to me at 9 o’clock. They’ve sent them to the wrong side of the stage”. [laughs] And the place went into hysterics. The Japanese came out in grand numbers. You know we just really had a great time. That was just wonderful sort of… Opening up and she gave a brilliant paper but I mean that was just brilliant. We had some social occasions that just went off. She organised another one where it was the President’s Dinner. They decided everyone would sing a national song or something and— All the representatives. And they couldn’t get… There was one representative from Lebanon and one from Israel or something and they shook hands while everyone’s crying and… Just wonderful. Gathering. Of camaraderie. Of hail-fellow-well-met… It was just great…

Read more from Pam here…

Photo ICM 1984 © Pat Brodie

Lesley Barclay

Lesley: The 1981 ICM meeting in Brighton UK was another formative occasion.  I had submitted an abstract that was accepted. Somehow, I met up with Pam Hayes, who was a delegate there with Margaret Peters. Pam and I shared a hotel room with lots of laughs and memories that I will never forget and always treasure. It was here that we nominated to have ICM in Australia. We were successful and three years of extraordinarily hard work ensued. My memory is that Margaret did virtually all of the hard work in the committees.

Pat: That sounds like a milestone and a massive project for so few of you?

Lesley: Absolutely. A small group of Australian midwives hosting the International Confederation of Midwives Congress in Sydney in 1984 was certainly a milestone for the midwifery profession in this country. I was the secretary of the national organising group as well as representing the ACT. Pam Hayes represented NSW; Margaret Peters, Victoria; and Jenny Cooling, South Australia. Judy Davis was also at these meetings; she was getting WA up and running at the time.

Margaret paid a leading role in the business side of the meetings. This was such hard work for a small executive plus a couple of Sydneysiders (some of whom are no longer with us) who worked extraordinarily hard to make this happen so wonderfully well.

The ICM Congress laid out a clear picture of the work to be done if Australian midwives were to aspire to become equals with midwives from all around the world, with midwifery recognised as a profession in its own right – separate from nursing. We were small in number but we had the energetic leadership of Margaret Peters and Pam Hayes, which meant that we hosted a hugely successful conference, which is still talked about today, and which put us on the map globally.

I will never forget the opening ceremony at the Opera House where the delegates and their flags were announced as they came down the aisles and up onto the stage. I was the MC for this process – and was both terrified and proud at the same time. We had drinks and canapes at sunset on the Opera house forecourt, overlooking the harbour. Again, a moment of great pride for Australian midwives.

The ICM meeting was profoundly important, a milestone, for Australian midwifery. I think the activism to get ourselves away from the ANF as an independent organisation was really important. Many Australian midwives came to the conference, and even though we were not Incorporated with branches in each state, it acted as motivation for many of us to get our own branches up and running.

The modest financial profit from the conference laid down the foundations for the acquisition of the assets that the College has today, including the national office.

Pat: So that momentum from ICM inspired midwives to get involved in growing the profession here?

Lesley: Yes it did.

Read more from Lesley’s talk with Pat Brodie here…

Photo ICM 1984 © Pat Brodie

Margaret Peters

A major undertaking that challenged us all resulted from the vision, which emanated from New South Wales, of what the impact of hosting a major international event in this country would do for midwifery.

The management of the 20th Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives in 1984 was a tremendous commitment for an organisation that was struggling to increase its membership and financial base.

The thought that our international colleagues had sufficient faith in our ability to undertake this task could have been reassuring, if there had been any serious competition to our bid. Of further concern was the knowledge, once we came to hear of it, that the 19th Congress had incurred a considerable financial loss. The confederation, at the time, was in serious financial trouble and the only real prospect for securing the survival of that organisation rested with us.

Our membership then was less than five hundred. The personal and professional risks were considerable. That the Sydney Congress was a success, made a profit, gave Australian midwifery prominence internationally and nationally is now part of our history and that of the Confederation.

Although the risks were real, the commitment of Australian midwives was enormous and I for one shall forever carry with me the memory of the sense of ownership which prevailed among my colleagues before and during that week in Sydney. It was at the one time both inspiring and humbling.

Since then we have as an organisation, been active participants on the international scene, especially in the now titled Asia Pacific Region of the Confederation.

Many individual Australian midwives have established bonds with colleagues in less developed nations and are supporting them in their endeavours to improve maternal outcomes and the status of midwifery in their countries.

Another outcome of the Congress was the establishment with the profits, of the Australian Midwifery Scholarship Foundation to support midwives’ research projects, study tours, and to attend conferences. Provision was also made to financially support midwives from developing countries to expand their midwifery knowledge and skills in this country.

Read more from Margaret’s article here…

Photo ICM 1984 © Pat Brodie

Pat Brodie

Some of the key achievements, I think… ah… looking back, the early Eighties. We hosted, in Sydney, we hosted the International Confederation of Midwives. 1984… what  time that was!  We filled the Town Hall. We had midwives, of course, from all over the world. We… Australian midwifery was on show. Our Association, our national body, was only just coming together and we were a handful of people that were part of the organising committee.

It was just a very proud moment to be at the Opera House at the opening ceremony, and all of those wonderful early, the founders of the College, having worked so hard to get the College – to get the the Conference to Sydney… so that put us on the map.

Hear more from Pat’s interview here…

History of midwifery practice in Australia & the Western Pacific Regions

Booklet prepared for the 20th Congress International Confederation of Midwives, Sydney 1984

Prepared by the WA Branch of the National Midwives Association of Australia

This history of midwifery practice in Australia and some countries of the Western Pacific is an attempt to give overseas visitors and Australian midwives themselves, an insight into some of the hi lights of their profession… At a time when Australian midwives face many changes and challenges to their practice it is appropriate to look backwards momentarily before we leap forward. We can look with criticism, amusement and considerable pride at our growth from a somewhat unorganised beginning to a position of maturity, strength and unity.