Pam Hayes OAM 15 December 1935 – 18 February 2007
Inaugural Vice President ACMI 1978-1983
President ACMI 1983 – 1985
Pam Hayes was a third generation midwife, following her mother and grandmother into the profession. She trained at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney in 1953 and almost immediately went to the Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania to train as a midwife.
Pam worked night duty in a small private hospital in Arncliffe before going to New York in 1960. For a year she worked as a general/paediatric nurse at St Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan, before traveling for three months across the USA to Canada for three months. She ended up working as a nurse and midwife on a small island off the British Columbian coast, half of which was an Indian Reserve, for 18 months.
Pam travelled across Canada and spent some time in England before returning to Australia, where she took a job working in the labour ward at Wollongong Hospital. She describes getting a job ‘perchance’ at the Women’s Hospital (Crown Street) in Sydney in 1963, where she stayed for 20 years until it was closed down. She left the labour ward in 1969 to become the Midwifery Educator, completing her Diploma in Midwifery Education in 1970.
Pam travelled all over NSW and other states and territories taking education programmes, workshops and seminars to midwives. Always ahead of her time in terms of her vision for the profession and her understanding of social issues, Pam lectured about sexuality and health at a time when this was considered quite outrageous:
I was early in trying to challenge the sphere of midwives’ knowledge, to develop an understanding of a couple’s sexuality as part of the midwifery curriculum. I was also trying to establish an appreciation of varying life-styles, migrant (New Australian), alternative ‘hippy’ and communes. I even was reported, reported to the Matron, in 1975, for showing a very simplistic sexuality film to a group of midwifery students… I remember introducing some new material, fighting for the extent of midwives knowledge, thinking about the curriculum we were presenting. Thinking midwives were badly done by compared with doctors and/or nurses, just as I thought women were badly done by compared with men.
Pam was a key player in the setting up of the organisation that would become the Australian College of Midwives. This process began in 1975, when she travelled to Lausanne to the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) conference. Here, Pam met Margaret Peters, a midwife from Melbourne. Along with other Australian midwives at the conference, they resolved to form a national midwifery organisation. Soon after, Pam and Margaret were contacted by Jenny Cooling, a midwife from South Australia, who had the same vision for bringing midwives together from across Australia in order to form a national midwifery organisation (see Jenny Cooling profile).
The coming together of this trio was an important turning point for Australian midwifery. On March 11th 1978, they became the inaugural office bearers of the National Midwifery Association (NMA): Margaret Peters (President), Pam Hayes (Vice President) and Jenny Cooling (Secretary and Treasurer). The NMA would become the Australian College of Midwives in 1983.
An initial conference of the NMA was held in Adelaide in 1979 and, with all the exuberance of the fledgling organisation and with virtually no capital, the group decided on a financial structure to include a scholarship fund and to bid for the hosting of the 1984 ICM Congress. This hugely successful conference put Australian midwifery on the international map and contributed to an enormous increase in members of the College.
Pam was Head of the Midwifery School at Crown Street from 1975. When it closed in 1983, she worked at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) as a Clinical Nurse Educator (Midwifery) until 1991. Pam led the development of the New South Wales Midwives Association (NSWMA – the NSW branch of the ACM) around this time – ‘We ran it from our bedrooms, boots of cars etc before getting our first premises in 1991.’ Pam left RPAH to establish the Ultimo offices of the NSWMA. This meant purchasing the premises, furnishing and establishing the office and organising business routines. She also conducted some of the early programs established for the continuing education of midwives.
Pam was a historian as well as a midwife. She had a superb grasp of the fraught history of heated arguments and constant debates between doctors, nurses and midwives in Australia, dating back to the 1890s. Some of these are evident in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ pages of the journals of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation and the NSW Nurses Association.
There were these big fights with nurses at every stage about nomenclature. We just kept calling ourselves ‘midwives’ when they insisted that we were ‘midwifery nurses’. We ignored the chattering nurses and in continuing to call ourselves ‘midwives’ gradually there was public acceptance of the term. The battle about nomenclature continued over name badges, employment awards and so forth and it is only really in the last year that we are beginning to see midwifery recognised officially.
Pam was instrumental in setting up and curating the historical archives in the NSWMA office. She brought together other midwifery history enthusiasts to organise and maintain the collection through the NSWMA History and Archives Committee. On her death in 2007, the collection was named after her.
In 1990, Pam received the Order of Australia for her services to childbearing women and midwifery. This is a fitting tribute to one who truly ‘midwifed’ Australian midwifery through to its coming of age.
Pam was made a Distinguished Fellow and Life Member of the Australian College of Midwives in 1995.