Friday, 6 November 2009

Julia Gillard's 2005 speech about the importance of choice for childbearing women

In 2005, Julia Gillard was the Shadow Minister of Health, Manager of Opposition business in the House of Representatives. Ms Gillard spoke at the following conference: 

Midwifery By The Sea - Riding The Waves Of Change
20th October 2005 
Following are excerpts from Ms Gillard's speech
"Thank you very much for your invitation to join you here today at your annual state conference by the sea.
The best start in life
It will not surprise this audience - I'm sure you will all agree - if I now say that I see the pregnant woman as the best focus for early intervention.
Between us we could draw up an impressive list of perinatal programs that would boost the health of the mother and her baby, and improve outcomes, and give all our kids the best start in life. 
Obstetric services and workforce shortages
In the middle of this is the big event - the birth.
I know that midwives - as a group and individually - have strong ideas about what should be provided in terms of birthing services. 
But shockingly, it is increasingly the case that for some women the idea of having a choice of birthing services and having continuity of care throughout their pregnancy, the birth and in the post-natal period is an impossible luxury - not just unaffordable, but unobtainable in their local area.
The shortage of midwives is also a problem. The Australian Health Workforce Advisory Committee estimates a current national shortage of 1850 midwives, and this is expected to increase over the remainder of the decade.
Midwives face additional concerns about the lack of professional recognition as well as limited opportunities to practise as primary carers and provide continuity of care to women. 
The need for a concerted approach 
Clearly this is no time for turf warfare between doctors and midwives, but it is time for all health care professionals involved in delivering obstetrics care to mount a combined attack on the Howard Government to force them into action to address this situation.
Unless and until the Government is shocked and shamed into realising that Australian women are now scrambling to find the birthing centre of their choice, and in some cases scrambling to find any professional who will deliver their child, the situation will not improve. 
It seems to me that we need a variety of solutions to fit all the circumstances that arise.  There is no 'one size fits all' way to solve the problems that present so differently in metropolitan Sydney, the isolated community of Wilcannia, the growing town of Byron Bay and the multicultural suburbs of Western Sydney.  The one common factor is the pregnant woman and her child - they must be at the centre of the solution.
… I believe that midwives … are key heath care professionals whose role in the care of women and their babies has yet to be fully realised in the Australian health care system.
We need to realise that potential so that mothers have real choice in their birthing experience, and their babies have the best start in life".  

Beautiful and true words. However, now we are finding that it is no longer the Howard government standing in the way of women's choice, it is now the Labor Government.  Right now, Nicola Roxon  is seeking to abort women's choice in birth place and birth attendant.  Ms Gillard, you need to ensure that your words in 2005 were not empty rhetoric and politically driven spin to win brownie points in opposition. 

The time for action on your words is now. 

1. Ensure the needs and choices of all childbearing women are at the centre of any  goverrnment, health /maternity  service or policy action. 

2. Ensure that midwives are able to work unhampered by politics in the way that the World Health Organisation recommends.  
3. Provide a level playing field for health care providers (midwives , lactation consultants (IBCLC) and doctors) who work with childbearing women (access to Medicare, insurance and PBS)
4. Remove professional silos and institute true dialogic conversations and interactions for those situations when childbearing women require a multidisciplinary approach for their situation).

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