The History of the N.S.W. Branch of the Australian College of Midwives

The Beginnings:-

The Australian College of Midwives New South Wales Branch is the latest name of NSW Midwives Association

In some form or another there has been a committed group of Midwives in New South Wales who have led the way and guided and shown concern for the role of the midwife since 1875. The history of the Australian College of Midwives and the New South Branch are intertwined.

In 1875 Lucy Osborne established the New South Wales School for Midwives at the Benevolent Society, later to become the Royal Hospital for Women Paddington Sydney.

In 1899 the Australian Trained Nurses Association (ATNA) held its first meeting. In documents available there is no mention of what actually led to the formation of this organisation.

A Nurse Register was established in N.S.W. on the 9th November 1899.

On 24th January 1900 at a meeting of the ATNA a Sub Committee was formed to regulate midwifery training. This Sub Committee was to be named ‘The Midwifery Nurses Auxiliary Branch of the ATNA’.

Between 1899 and 1947 there was a period of wars, the Boer War, WWI and WWII.

In 1926 the New South Wales Nurses Association was formed as a Professional Body to negotiate nurses and midwives salaries. Now in 2022 this Industrial body is known as the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, New South Wales Branch.

In 1947 Ida Love became the founding member and Chairman of the New South Wales Midwives Association.

In 1970 branches were originally Special Interest Groups under the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (RANF).

The History of Midwifery in Australia owes much to the research done by Miss Archina Thornton, who presented a paper at a Midwives Seminar entitled The past in midwifery services.

Major happenings in 1975 began the setting up of the organisation that was to become the Australian College of Midwives. Pamela Hayes from NSW, travelled to Lausanne to the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM). This Conference led to Pam meeting Margaret Peters from Victoria. The meeting of these 2 midwives became a pivotal turning point for Midwifery in Australia. NSW became a member of ICM after Maggie Myles and Margaret Byles visited Australia in 1970. In 1978 a National Organisation was initiated.

It was in 1979 that the Inaugural Conference for the National Midwives Association, Royal Australian Nursing Federation was held in Adelaide April 18 –20.

By 1982 there were Branches of this National Body in all states.

It was in 1983 that the National Midwives separated from the RANF and became the Australian College of Midwives Incorporated.

Pam Hayes tells us in her interview that when thinking of a national body “we” talked about College of Midwifery Australia that was COMA!  As we didn’t want a COMA, Pam then thought that ACMI – Australian College of Midwives Incorporated was a far better name for this peak body.

After much planning and preparation, in 1984 the International Confederation of Midwives was held in Sydney. The New South Wales Midwives Association hosted this Conference. This was an important gathering of Midwives from Australia and around the world.

It was from the 1980’s that doom descended on 3 major maternity units in Sydney, The Women’s Hospital (Crown Street), closed in 1983 and the Mater Misericordia Maternity Hospital closed in 1982. Saint Margaret’s Hospital (Darlinghurst) then closed some time later in 1998. These 3 institutions were closed and sentiment among midwives was high. After the 75th Anniversary of Crown Street in1968 and with these closures there was a wealth of accumulating material. So in 1981-1982 a Sub Committee of the NSW Midwives Association was formed – the History and Archives Committee – to gather, record and hold all material relevant to the History of Midwifery in NSW and Australia. In New South Wales this material is held in the Pam Hayes Midwifery Archives. This collection comprises books, photos, badges, College records, equipment, memorabilia, teaching resources, and so much more. It is hoped that this collection will eventually be available to all midwives.

In 1985, 2 sub-branches were formed, the Hunter Valley Midwives and the Illawarra Midwives

1987 saw the inception of the New South Midwives Association Newsletter Midwifery Matters. Pamela Hayes was the editor.

In 1991 NSW Midwives purchased their first premises – an office in The Hub Building in Ultimo Sydney. The Pam Hayes Midwifery Archives is housed in this office.

The New South Wales Midwives Association became The Australian College of Midwives New South Wales Branch in 1987.

Midwives in Australia have a documented history and we can all be proud of that history and the midwives who have helped to weave it. Much more information will be discovered and added and we will continue to add to this history.


Prepared for International Day of the Midwife, 5 May 2022

Written by Pamela Mullholland



The History of Midwifery Training in Australia. Paper Presented by I Love at National Midwives Association, Royal Australian Nursing Federation, Adelaide, 1979.

Obituary of I.D. Love. Midwifery Matters, June 1990 Vol 4 No 1 Page 4

Transcript of Pamela Hayes Interview

The Past in midwifery services, Australian Nurses Journal, March 1972

Australian Midwifery News 25:1 Winter 2021