Midwifery-led care in South Australia: Looking back to move forward

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McKellar, Lois
Newnham, Elizabeth
Fleet, Julie-Anne
Adelson, Pamela
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Background From the 1980s to the turn of the century, Australia saw an evolution of midwifery-led models of care, in part due to legislative reform and federal funding, but largely owing to the efforts of strong midwifery leaders and consumers who rallied for the implementation of alternative models of care. Through persistence and extensive collaboration, the first South Australian birth centres were established.

Aim To better understand the evolution of midwifery-led care in South Australia and identify the drivers and impediments to inform the upscaling of midwifery models into the future.

Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten midwifery leaders and/or those instrumental in setting up birth centres and midwifery-led care in South Australia. Data was analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings Three overarching themes and several sub-themes were identified, these included: ‘Midwifery suffragettes’ which explored ‘activism’, ‘adversity’ and ‘advocacy’; ‘Building bridges’ captured the importance of ‘gathering midwives’, a ‘movement of women’ and ‘champions and influencers’; and ‘Recognising midwifery’ identified the strong ‘sense of identity’ needed to outface ‘ignorance and opposition’ and the importance of ‘role reformation’.

Conclusion These midwifery leaders provide insight into an era of change in the history of midwifery in South Australia and contribute valuable learnings. In order to move forward, midwives must continue to embrace the political nature of midwifery, enact authentic, transformational leadership and engage women across all levels of influence. It is critical that midwives pursue equity in professional recognition, work collaboratively to provide quality, woman-centred maternity care and expand midwifery continuity of care models.

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Women and Birth
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McKellar, L; Newnham, E; Fleet, J-A; Adelson, P, Midwifery-led care in South Australia: Looking back to move forward, Women and Birth, 2020