Monday, August 24, 2009

Justine Caines writes ...

"We’re not homebirth wingnuts, we just want equal treatment"

A well written response, and some good comments, in response to 's article by Bernard Keane, "Home birth wingnuts shouting down major steps forward for midwifery".

How to be a virtual attender at THE RALLY

Extension to purchase Virtual Rally Ticket by midnight Sat August 29

Can’t come to the September Rally? Want to be there not just in spirit? Why not support us with a cut out to be placed amongst those attending.

Purchase a $25 “Virtual Rally Ticket”

Simply fill out the form, upload your headshot and you will be there supporting the cause.

“Your pledge of $25 goes towards the printing and assembling of your head shot and message, as well as towards our continuing campaign to keep homebirth with a midwife a viable option for Australian families”

Saturday the 29th of August (midnight) will be the last chance to buy a virtual rally ticket. Be quick and buy one now before it is too late.

[From Homebirth Australia]

[Pic: from the recent Melbourne rally]

Friday, August 21, 2009

meeting with health Minister Nicola Roxon

Nicola Roxon convened a meeting yesterday with representatives of midwifery and consumer groups around the current legislative reforms and ensuing problems of homebirth and private midwifery.

Those who attended represented the Australian Private Midwives Association, Australian College of Midwives, Maternity Coalition, and Homebirth Australia.

It is reported that the Minister acknowledged the unlawfulness of privately attended homebirth under the new legislation, and declared her commitment to working to resolve the problem. However, she went from this meeting to the Parliament to present the midwife and nurse practitioner bills for debeate. (link to the Hansard Aug 20, 2009)

Messages have circulated by email from the various members of the groups represented. Some of these messages go to email groups that have restricted access only to members, while others are publically accessable. Some of the readers of midwifery blogs are not able to access the email groups, so here are a few pertinent points:

A state/territory (S/T) arrangement, in which public hospitals are the providers of homebirth services. [This is more to do with buck passing between state and federal health departments than initially meets the eye. The S/T funding for all in-hospital care, including birth, is part of a complex funding agreement with the federal government. The federal treasury would be unlikely to let anyone upset the apple cart, particularly an insignificant group of people who they expect will settle down into their hormonal worlds and get used to the new rules!]

Homebirth Australia secretary, Justine Caines, wrote: "We clearly articulated that the state solution was not workable.

"So far we know the following from the states:

"SA have basically told supporters they will not meet with them and to take it to Nicola.
"NSW will not meet with Homebirth Australia
"QLD is saying NO WAY to state based homebirth
"VIC Minister said yesterday that 'Private Midwives have no place in Victoria' and he doesn't care about ANY of the 350 or so women who gave birth in Victoria last year. (YES REALLY).

"She [Roxon] said that she was optimistic that a product could be found if we used a framework like the SA Homebirth policy. Homebirth Australia clearly argued that the SA policy is being used as an 'exclusion criteria' and while HBA supports the SA policy in principle we need to also establish a duty of care clause to ensure that midwives are able to care for women that want to homebirth but fall outside of the guidelines. I specifically made mention of VBAC here.

"Nicola said there will be no Medicare funding for homebirth.

"Homebirth Australia finds this totally unacceptable that funding should be excluded from homebirth.

"Nicola has spent a long time diminishing homebirth women as so small in number, the money would not be an issue and as we all know every woman out of hospital SAVES considerably.

"Our rally platform will be that women must be empowered to make decisions about their body and their baby, just like any other person can in healthcare. ALL WOMEN - EQUAL RIGHTS

"All women MUST have access to a registered health provider, midwife, or Dr and in the case of homebirth obviously midwife.

"With the Medicare funding arrangement we are on the cusp of funding 'private practice' midwifery, The funding must include homebirth.

"WE HAVE 2 WEEKS TO CONTINUE OUR WORK IN LOCAL ELECTORATES. SOON I will have a letter to draft to local politicians and some early preparation for communities with good numbers coming to the rally to get local media engaged."

Comment added by Joy Johnston
I don’t mind if there’s no medicare scheduled payment for homebirth. But I do mind that the medical profession can charge a fee that is unregulated, and the safety net kicks in. When I was still a teenager we had big union action to get equal pay for equal work. Haha! The government’s payment for basic maternity care (the uncomplicated, universal bit) should be the same regardless of whether that basic care was provided by a midwife, a doctor, or a mix of midwives and doctors – as in New Zealand. I consider Medicare unsuitable for the pregnancy-birth-postnatal maternity episode, so any fiddling on the edges is just that. As long as the unfair monopoly is supported by the government it is against all codes of fairness and equity for mothers who want private midwifery care, as well as for midwives whose main practice area is homebirth. I will continue to aggitate against and resist such laws.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

more media

Crikey First dog on the moon cartoon.

From Busselton WA
Mums fight for home births
21st August 2009, 10:45 WST

"Four Busselton mothers concerned about the future lack of choices for expectant women are going to join a rally at Canberra House next month. ..."

The Australian

Maternity push urged

Siobhain Ryan | August 18, 2009

A SENATE committee has urged the government to push ahead with changes to nurse and maternity services, despite recognising the risk home births could be driven underground.

The ALP-dominated committee has left it to the states and territories to help resolve the indemnity crisis facing private midwives next year, when a new registration and accreditation scheme comes into force. ...
[Email your letter to the Editor of the Australian:]

The Age

Home truths for home birth laws

August 18, 2009

A SENATE committee has stepped up pressure on the Government to rethink its lack of support for home births with even Government senators acknowledging that current proposals could ''drive home births underground''.

The Government chairwoman of the Senate's community affairs committee, Claire Moore, said the three Labor members recommended go-ahead of legislation expanding the role of midwives and extending support for medical indemnity cover for midwives operating in hospitals.

But Senator Moore said that, while the legislation did not make home births unlawful, separate legislation dealing with the accreditation of health workers ''may result in home births being outside the scope of practice of registered midwives due to the requirement for indemnity insurance as a condition of registration''.


[your letter to the editor of The Age:]


Home birth proposals would put mums and babies at risk: advocate

18/08/2009 4:00:00 AM

A HUNTER home birthing advocate says a senate committee's decision to recommend the Federal Government's proposed health care laws would drive home births underground and put lives at risk.

Homebirth Australia secretary and mother of seven, Justine Caines, of Scone, said the changes would effectively make home births unlawful, despite the committee saying otherwise, because registration would become impossible.

This in turn would drive home births underground, putting lives at risk.

"If you're going to get jailed or fined if you have any part of it, if anything goes wrong you're going to run away and call an ambulance," she said.

"It puts everyone at risk."

Ms Caines, who gave birth to all her children at home, said the changes could also deter women who want home births from getting appropriate primary health care.

[Make your comment at the bottom of the online link for this article.]


Herald Sun today
HOME births would be driven underground by new maternity laws, a Senate committee has admitted.

The community affairs committee said that without special insurance, midwives would be unable to legally practice. ...

Geelong Advertiser

Fight for right to homebirth

Nick Wade
August 18th, 2009

MELISSA McFarlane is devastated expectant mothers could soon be denied the right to the intimate and private homebirths she received. ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Midwife laws may force homebirths underground

Mark Metherell and Kate Benson
August 18, 2009

A SENATE committee has acknowledged that proposed legislation for midwives may ''drive homebirths underground''. ...

Medical Observer

Midwife indemnity plan may spark GP obstetrician exodus

Andrew Bracey - Friday, 14 August 2009

GP obstetricians could ‘down tools’ as a result of Federal Government plans to allow midwives to practise independently with subsidised indemnity insurance.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) has warned the move could drive up doctors’ insurance premiums and force them to quit practice.

“Obstetricians may be called in too late to manage an obstetric emergency and have to face the blame for a poor outcome, when an earlier referral may have averted a crisis,” the college said.

“[If] premiums rise, that could be a considerable driver for doctors [to exit] the obstetric workforce, and we are already on... a knife edge with workforce,” RANZCOG president Dr Ted Weaver said.

The college warning comes as three pieces of legislation were introduced to Federal Parliament that would expand MBS and PBS rights for midwives and nurse practitioners, and provide the former with federally subsidised indemnity cover.

In submissions to a Senate inquiry into the legislation, doctor groups have called for clearer detail on the proposed collaborative models of care, amid fears the legislation will lead to fragmented and lower standards of care (MO, 31 July).

The Federal Health Department has indicated midwives would pay around $7500 annually for a policy. GP obstetricians, on average, pay more than $10,000 for cover, while obstetricians pay close to $50,000.

AMA president Dr Andrew Pesce told MO that the tendering process now underway to find an insurer for midwives was premature, given the lack of detail regarding the necessary collaborative care models.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said MBS and PBS rights would only be eligible to midwives involved in collaborative arrangements with appropriate referral pathways.

“Under these circumstances, there is no basis to assume that there would be upward pressure on premiums for obstetricians,” the spokesperson said.


“Senate Inquiry”- committee supports homebirth but legislates it out of existence.

Six Senators, three parties and nearly 2000 members of the public expressed their support for women’s right to choice in birth care, in today’s Senate Committee Report.

The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee today reported on their inquiry into the “Medicare for midwives” Bills, currently before Commonwealth Parliament. Although the Report is divided into majority, minority and dissenting reports, all reports recognise the benefits to women from granting Medicare for midwifery services, and the need for women to have access to homebirth care with a registered midwife.

“The clear message from this Senate Committee Report is that an insurance solution must be found to allow ongoing access to homebirth as a safe choice for Australian women”, said Lisa Metcalfe, President of birth consumer group Maternity Coalition. “The Government Senators majority report fails to provide a solution in their recommendations.”

“In the 1,915 public submissions to the inquiry Australian women are saying that they will continue to make independent choices about their births, but they will not be afforded the basic right to access a registered midwife for birth at home if the Midwifery Bills are passed as they stand.” said Ms Metcalfe

“Maternity Coalition is appalled that in less that 12 months from now, the only choice for women birthing at home will be to use an un-registered carer. Where is the safety or sense in that?” said Ms Metcalfe

“The Senators join Australia’s midwifery and nursing organisations, consumer groups, and international experts in recognising midwives as skilled caregivers, and homebirth as a legitimate choice. The responsibility is now squarely back on Minister Roxon’s shoulders to deliver a comprehensive insurance solution before July 2010 which allows every woman to have every choice in their birth care”, said Ms Metcalfe.

The full report is available from:

Maternity Coalition’s fact sheet on the current threat to homebirth is at:

Media contacts:

Maternity Coalition National President Lisa Metcalfe, Phone: 02 4268 1675 or 0437 577 576

Australia’s national maternity consumer advocacy organisation

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Homebirth Whisperer

Guest Blogger Robyn Thompson writes, in response to an article in the Herald Sun On-Line, August 11, 2009

HOMEBIRTHS will be driven underground by Rudd Government moves to force midwives to be insured.
“Some 200 midwives could be driven to practice clandestine homebirthing because they will be denied indemnity insurance, the Opposition says”.

True. Australian private midwives, given the green light at the Senate Inquiry (8/8), are safe to continue to practice without insurance, so long as they don’t use their well earned academic Title MIDWIFE.

On the cusp of critical Australian Health Reform, evolutionary generations of Australian ‘Homebirth Whisperers’ are on the horizon.

Midwives, likely insurers and the Health Minister are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. In fairness the Australian Health Minister never intended this political and professional debacle, she warned the professions from the outset to reach a workable solution. Why this debacle? Because some high profile medical and nursing leaders found it too difficult to talk with the country’s most experienced midwives. Instead, they continued on a destructive pathway of supremacy.

The crux of this debacle about the legislation linking unavailable indemnity to registration for midwives providing homebirth services is compounded by collusion. The plot – leave the nucleus of private MIDWIVES out of the debate, no consultation. The consequence – In the absence of the voice of expert midwives, propaganda and innuendo transformed their gold standard professional services into a disproportionate, fear driven campaign against the safety of Australian homebirth. Oppression of private midwives linked to planned suppression of their practice stimulated the unprecedented rise of Australian women, directly affected by insularly controlled bureaucratic decision making, challenging their democratic and human rights to place-of-birth.

Why the eleventh hour turn around by the Senate Inquiry to invite a private midwife to speak? Private midwives had nothing to lose with their MIDWIFE future under threat of extinction. Midwives had enough initiative to inaugurate the Australian Private Midwives Association (APMA) uniting privately practising midwives nationally to deal with deathly politics. And because of persistent, dogged, political lobbying, some intelligent Senators understood the real issues of exclusion and propaganda, inviting at the eleventh hour a politically savvy privately practising midwife, to speak at the Senate Inquiry. Finally there was one voice.

This debate is also compounded by historical marriage. Members of medical and nursing organisations are realising they have to divorce historical control over Midwifery. From July 1, 2010 midwives and nurses will be separated with two distinct Registers. Midwifery re-emerges as profession in its own right, no longer controlled by nursing or obstetrics. While the professions will continue to work together with midwifery and medicine consulting in the best interests of women and their babies, women will retain the right to choose whatever service best suits them.

What does all of this mean? The crystal ball- medical income could be affected as more Australian women over time may decide to seek the services of Medicare ‘eligible’ midwives. That does not mean that obstetric s will be negated. What it means is obstetrics will provide respected, highly skilled institutional medical services for women. Healthy women without medical complications may seek to have their full scope of care provided by Medicare ‘eligible’ midwives in various geographical settings via a range of creative models including private homebirth.

Meanwhile, until the issues are sensibly resolved around the dollar, it is highly likely that women seeking to employ the full scope of private care at home will continue with experienced ‘Homebirth Whisperers’ to fill the void from July, 2010.

Robyn Thompson
RM, RN, M&CHN, BachAppSc, BF Cons
PhD Student
Charles Darwin University NT
Mob: 0418 324 058
Pregnancy, Birth and Breastfeeding Whisperer maybe!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What assumptions underly the costing of the Government's midwife indemnity scheme?

[An excerpt from the Proof Committee Hansard (p CA 68) of the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee permitted some light to be thrown on the Department's (lack of) substantial evidence to support its recommendation to exclude homebirth from government supported private midwifery practice under the new legislation.]

Senator BOYCE—I have a few questions on the actual costings and the way you worked out the indemnity scheme. What were the assumptions underlying how you costed it? Where did
you get to with that?

Ms Hancock—I understand you are asking about the assumptions used underlying the costings for the professional indemnity component of the package?

Senator BOYCE—Yes.

Ms Hancock—I am hoping that I am giving you the information that you are looking for.

Senator BOYCE
—You start and we will see. It was deliberately broad.

Ms Hancock
—We had some assumptions about the likely number of midwives to be covered and some assumptions concerning the possible rate of claims and size of claims. Those were based on advice given to us by the Australian Government Actuary on the basis of a fairly large amount of information that he had considered, both from medical indemnity insurers and from other information sources.

Senator BOYCE
—Would that be historical information? I ask that because no-one has been insured since 2001 in the midwifery field.

Ms Hancock
—Yes, that is right, being both historical information and information from other countries. We also used information concerning claim rates relating to birth related
incidents from medical indemnity insurers who currently insure obstetricians.

Senator BOYCE
—Can you give us some more detail about those figures? You are saying you made some assumptions about the number and size of claims that will be made.

Ms Hancock—The costings are based on a claim rate of 1.1 incidents per 1,000 births and an average claim size of $227,000.

Senator BOYCE
—Those are for the 2010-2011 year?

Ms Hancock—Well, that is overall the likely situation. The claim rate is the same throughout the four years, I believe.

Senator BOYCE—That is an average for the four years?

Ms Hancock

Senator BOYCE—Are you able to give us any tables or anything else on that? Does it vary from state to state?

Ms Hancock
—That is essentially a high-level extrapolation from all the data that had been gathered from that wide range of sources with a huge amount of consideration fed into
those kinds of answers at the end. My suspicion is that it is an actuarial assumption and if you got different actuaries to sift through the figures they would probably come up with slightly different scenarios. The Australian Government Actuary is our best source of information and actuarial advice.

Senator BOYCE
—Taking the 1.1 incidents per 1,000 and the $227,000 per claim, what do they give us for a year? What is the average costing? I am not doing the birth rates so I do not know.

Ms Hancock
—I cannot remember. The entire package is for $25 million over four years.

Senator BOYCE
—Would you happen to know what the average claim rate for obstetricians is?
Ms Hancock—I think it is still about 1.1 per 1,000 births.

Senator BOYCE—So you are anticipating that midwives would have about the same claim rate as
obstetricians. Is that right?

Ms Hancock
—It is more that the actuary did not have sufficient information concerning midwive-led care in Australia to come to a conclusion other than that the rate of birth
related incidents would be roughly the same.

Senator BOYCE—As we have been discussing, homebirths have been technically removed. Was that
considered in your assumptions?

Ms Hancock
—What we were doing was working out how to cost the indemnity component of the package, not in essence how to inform a decision about whether homebirths should be
included or not. The basis of those costings was that homebirths would not be included but my
recollection is that the actuary was unable to say what difference the inclusion of homebirths might make. He did not have sufficient data on which to base conclusions.


Sunday, August 9, 2009


PRESS RELEASE From the Minister for Health

Friday, 07 August 2009
Victorian families will more birthing choices thanks to a Brumby Labor Government pilot program.
Health Minister Daniel Andrews said a pilot program would be established at two Melbourne hospitals to trial public home birth services.

“The Brumby Labor Government is taking action to provide Victorian families with world-class health services,’’ Mr Andrews said.

“Home birthing has been a popular option considered by women expecting straight-forward, uncomplicated births.

“The Brumby Labor Government will pilot a public homebirth program at two hospitals, and then evaluate the model to see if it can be more widely offered through the public health system.’’

Until now, the only option for women seeking a home birth has been to engage a private midwife at their own expense - but lack of indemnity insurance is an ongoing issue.

Mr Andrews said midwives employed through the pilots would be covered by their hospital’s indemnity insurance.

“Victorian women now have more options and choices in models of care, more continuity in care and carer and more detailed information, enabling them to make more informed decisions regarding maternity care.

“This new pilot program will give Victorian families greater choice in maternity care and provide women with greater control of their birthing experience.’’

Mr Andrews said that as a result of the new directions set out in the Future Directions for Victorian Maternity Services in 2004 Victorian women now have experienced increased continuity in their care throughout and after their pregnancy.

Mr Andrews said the Victorian pilot model has been established following consultation with consumer groups, maternity health professionals; including leading maternity obstetricians and midwives. It will also draw on the experience and learning’s of programs in Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and NSW.

“Trailing the Victorian model where homebirth could be part of the public system is consistent with the Commonwealth recommendations, and would ensure that women opting for home births would still fall directly under the umbrella of hospital services should any complications arise,” Mr Andrews said.

Around 166 Victorian women home birth with a mid-wife in private practice each year. The hospitals participating in the pilots will be finalised and announced shortly.


Firstly, let's get our numbers correct. The most recent published data from the Department of Human Services, the same Department that published this press release, reveal that 253 women gave birth at home in 2007. For more detail on these births, click here. (Where did 166 come from?) The number of midwife-attended* homebirths in Victoria has been increasing each year, and it has been more than 166 since 2004, when 181 homebirths were recorded.

Secondly, we are told that the "Victorian pilot model has been established following consultation with consumer groups, maternity health professionals; including leading maternity obstetricians and midwives." Enquiries made amongst MiPP members, who are the midwives providing homebirth services for almost all the women giving birth at home in this State, failed to identify any independent midwife who had been involved in these discussions. The Department of Human Services knows which midwives provide homebirth services, because we send data forms, with our names on them, to the Department's Perinatal Data Collection Unit, after each birth. Several of our members attend 30+ births in the year; others fewer. We also receive, from the Department, the annual 'Homebirths' report.

The Age article quotes Fiona Hallinan, "an independent midwife who has protested against the Federal Government's changes, says she doubts the scheme will attract sufficient staff to get off the ground."

We shall see!

We understand that the (as yet unannounced) Melbourne hospitals from which the pilot homebirth schemes are to operate will be Sunshine and Casey. Women who live within a relatively small radius of those hospitals may be eligible for homebirth.

* 'midwife-attended homebirths' distinguishes these births from 'born before arrival' (bba) births and intentionally unattended births (sometimes called free births).

Friday, August 7, 2009

video bar

I have added the You-Tube video bar gadget to this blog - scroll down on the Right. I don't know how to configure it to show the videos I choose, so if anyone can advise me on this, please do. The key words I have set are midwife, birth, homebirth, and breastfeeding.
Joy Johnston (blogger)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Pictures that tell a story!

News story today

- Please gather at

King George garden’s at 11am opposite the cinema for a photo shoot by the local newspaper the “chronicle” regarding an interview about the success of today's rally and about women’s birth rights.

All supporters of private midwifery in the North East of Victoria please come! Bring family, friends, and grandparents for 1100am. Thanks and I look forward to seeing you then!!!

Lisa Chapman