The History of the Victorian Branch of the Australian College of Midwives

The Beginnings:-

The ACM (Vic) Branch as we know it today began life almost 72 years ago when, on 18th September 1950, the members of the Royal Victorian College of Nursing (RVCN) ‘Obstetric Sisters Section’ held its inaugural Special Interest Group meeting, chaired by Miss Joan Usher. Meetings were subsequently held quarterly, and the group agreed upon a contribution of one shilling per head per meeting to cover the cost of supper.

In April 1954 the Obstetric Sisters Section developed and adopted formal Rules (which were adopted by the RVCN in October the same year), and the fee for membership of the group was revised to five shillings annually. A seminal turning point occurred soon after when, in February 1955, the name of the Obstetric Sisters Section was changed to the Midwives Section. Little then changed for the ensuing 16 years (except that the annual fee became 50c per year after decimalisation in Australia in February 1966), however October 1971 saw the RVCN Midwives Section applying for and being granted membership of the International Confederation of Midwives.

Also during the early 1970s, the Australian Nursing Federation Employees Section Victorian Branch (which was the ’employees’ section of the RVCN), changed its name to the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch), and subsequently, in 1975 the name of the RVCN Midwives Section changed again to become the Royal Australian Nursing Federation (VIC) ‘Midwives Special Interest Group’. Midwifery students were first permitted to become members of the Group in March 1976.

Another seminal turning point occurred in July 1978 when, although the MSIG remained, the National Midwives Association (NMA) was formed within the Royal Australian Nursing Federation, with the Victoria Branch Section as one of the initial four state/territory Branch Sections. No record exists of who the RANF NMA representative was for Victoria at this point, but we do know that Margaret Peters was re-elected to that role in 1980, which infers she was in it previously as well. Margaret attended the 19th Conference of the ICM in Brighton, England along with colleagues ‘P. Harkins, A Davis, and N. Cook’, and not only did the delegation bid successfully at this Conference for the next one to be held in Australia in 1984, but Margaret herself was nominated as ICM President at that event. Pam Kilpatrick took over the role of VIC Branch Section representative following Margaret’s resignation in April 1983 at the RANF NMA Conference in Canberra.

At this meeting, the NMA voted unanimously to sever its connection with the RANF, which the RANF VIC MSIG fully endorsed however also chose to remain as a SIG affiliated with RANF VIC, and in March 1985, Pam proposed a name change for the RANF VIC MSIG (which was endorsed formally in July the same year) to the ‘Midwives Association of VIC (RANF (Vic)’, with the following rationale:

The title Midwives Special Interest Group appears to have little meaning outside the group i.e. the members that belong. Those members involved in fund raising had problems explaining it to people outside nursing. I have personally had problems trying too [sic] explain it. Sometimes even to people within nursing. Some of us rather than go through this hassle have taken to using the term Midwives Association. It meets with instant understanding, saving a lot of confusion, and I believe is more in line with modern terminology. In terms of making our profession more visible and having a clear identity I believe that it is important that we make a move in this direction.

The Constitution of the newly-titled Midwives Association of Victoria (MAV) was subsequently established in 1986, and in January of the following year a resolution to separate from the RANF was proposed, the MAV was formally incorporated in February 1987, and a formal motion to separate from the RANF was proposed and carried at the MAV AGM in April 1987.

Several other key Motions were also put forward and moved at that meeting. These were: to form Midwives Association of Victoria under the Constitution, that under the previous Constitution all unresolved financial matters transfer to the management of the new Association, that the new Executive meet before the end of the day to elect office bearers and be empowered to transfer monies, and that the Executive be empowered to enlist Legal Aid as required.

Formal dissolution procedures then followed in accordance with the RANF (Vic) MSIG Constitution, the first general meeting of the Midwives Association of Victoria Incorporated (MAVI) was held in early May 1987, however later that month the NMA changed its name to the Australian College of Midwives Incorproated, and by January 1989, the MAVI had become the ACM(I) Victorian Branch and was named as such on the cover of its monthly newsletter (pictured below).

First Victorian Branch newsletter as ACMI, January 1989



Research: Rebecca Hart, Carole Gilmour, Louise Noorbergen

Summary: Sara Bayes