Celebrating midwifery research in the South Pacific: Alison Eddy, Professional Projects Advisor at the New Zealand College of Midwives (NZCOM) describes two successful collaborative events in this region.

AuteurEddy, Alison


New Zealand is an island nation in the South Pacific, somewhat geographically isolated from the rest of the world. We have a unique maternity system that has developed as a result of midwives and women lobbying together to effect legislative change. The culmination of this was in 1990 when midwives regained their professional autonomy. A series of subsequent legislative changes now means that New Zealand women can access a maternity system which is based on the midwifery model of care.

New Zealand is a bicultural nation. Maori are the indigenous population, and the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) signed in 1840 sets out the basis of the relationship between the Crown (New Zealand government) and Maori. The principles of the Treaty are partnership, participation and protection. The New Zealand midwifery profession's philosophy reflects the Treaty principles. Midwifery in New Zealand is also based on partnership with women, a concept which is also embodied within the Treaty.

In New Zealand, midwifery is now recognised as a distinctly different profession from nursing. Three-year undergraduate education for midwives is now the only means by which midwives can be educated. This year, 2003, has been significant for the midwifery profession in New Zealand as it has seen the passing of the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Act. This is a further legislative change which provides for the establishment of a separate midwifery regulatory authority--the Midwifery Council. Until this point, despite the changes in 1990, the Nursing Council had regulated the midwifery profession. Midwifery in New Zealand is now recognised as a profession that is not nursing. As a profession, we have now truly claimed our place in the maternity service of New Zealand.

Issues for midwives and women

Here in New Zealand, we often feel quite privileged when reading about the issues facing women and our midwife colleagues throughout the world. In our 'developed' nation, in parallel with many others, the effects of violence towards women in pregnancy are significant; teenage pregnancy rates are high; relative poverty affects a growing number of women and children; and health outcomes for Maori are poor in comparison with pakeha (New Zealanders of European descent). However, women have access to a free primary maternity service, secondary obstetric back-up is readily accessible and free to all and over 90% of women have a known and chosen 'lead...

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