In the International Year of the Nurse we also recognise Midwives.

While children and babies were a familiar site at The Coast/ Prince Henry Hospital due to the prevalence of infections childhood diseases, the hospital did not provide maternity services or midwifery training. Prince Henry trained nurses who wished to attain the qualification had to undertake specialist midwifery training at other institutions, such as Crown Street Women’s Hospital and Royal Women’s Hospital Paddington, upon completion of their general nursing diploma.

European women had been giving birth in the colony since the first fleet, the formalisation of midwifery training in Australia began with the Diploma of Midwifery issued by the Women’s Hospital in Melbourne from 1893, undertaken after general nursing training. Training courses for Australian midwives were deeply influenced by the English system. By the turn of the century many untrained midwives were replaced by hospital trained nurses.

The Benevolent Society Asylum, established in 1820, provided obstetric services to poor and destitute women. By 1888 it had become affiliated with the University of Sydney as a training hospital and in 1901 relocated to a sprawling campus in Paddington. The Benevolent Society Asylum was granted royal patronage by King Edward VII in 1904, becoming the Royal Hospital for Women. Mirroring the experience of Prince Henry Hospital, In 1997 the the Royal in Paddington was sold for commercial redevelopment and the hospital was relocated to Randwick, alongside Prince of Wales Hospital.

The  Women’s Hospital, better known as Crown Street WOmen’s Hospital, opened in 1893.  Part of its mandate was to raise standards of maternity care by providing instruction to women who had previously acted as midwives without any medical certification.

Transition to a degree based qualification began at Flinders University in Adelaide, which offered the first Bachelor of Midwifery for registered nurses in 1997. Today, direct entry midwifery degrees at undergraduate level are available in most Australian states. These degrees differ from previous qualifications in that they no longer require pre-registration as a nurse, although alternative pathways have been maintained for nurses who wish to obtain a midwifery qualification. All midwives must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia to practise.