Meet Midwifery Leader and Gippsland Branch Treasurer, Barb Dann!

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The Education Unit has the honour of introducing you to fabulous members of the Australian College of Midwives (ACM), who dedicate their spare time to working with and for the ACM. These hard-working, passionate and dedicated individuals are the backbone of ACM, and we are incredibly grateful for their continued support and service. This month, we would love you to meet an inspirational midwifery leader and the Gippsland Branch Treasurer, Barb Dann!

I have a friend who asks if I can sense the soul entering the baby at birth – I don’t know that I do, but I certainly sense the lioness entering the woman, no matter how many babies she has had. - Barb Dann

When did you become a midwife? 

In 1987, but it took me 4 & 1/2 years.  I was a hospital trained general nurse, who decided to undertake midwifery through the Bachelor of Applied Science program was offered by Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences.  Back then, for a hospital graduate that meant a 6 month course to be eligible to enter the course – that was in 1983. I the next “year” of the course over 3 years & my final year (1987) was full time. 

Why did you become/why are you a midwife?

If I am honest, I “did mid” so I would be more employable in a rural setting – that was where my life was going in those days.  One of the benefits of training the way I did was that you were exposed to different midwifery cultures (though always hospitals).  Most of my time was spent at two – one could only be described as obstetric nursing, but it was at the other that I was exposed to and learnt to love midwifery.  In 1987, I went to the ACM Hobart Biennial Conference – there I was exposed to passionate midwives and research in practice, which resulted in my passions being ignited.

Have you undertaken any additional study since you Registered – related to midwifery?

There is always something to learn, a new way of looking at things.  My entire career I have continued to attend varied study days, workshops, short courses.  Formally, I completed the requirements for IBCLC registration and in 2009 I completed The Master of Midwifery Studies through the University of Newcastle.

Do you have a special/quirky/sad/meaningful memory you want to share?

I have met so many special midwives over the years – people who have taught and shared so much.  The highlight of my working life has been 2 team models, sadly neither of them are offered any more.  But, the really special moments involve women and that special relationship we have with them.  One was a home birth – I had cared for that woman for her other children, but was no longer employed at her local hospital, so she suggested a home birth and I am so very glad I did (and grateful to my other team colleagues who covered for me when she went into labour).  Though, the birth that will always live in my heart was a very family orientated birth, where the husband wanted to be accoucheur and the woman wanted her children involved.  That birth still gives me such a high; and then heartbreak when her next child died not long after birth.

What is your favourite thing about being a midwife?

I love that I have an opportunity to help women (and their partners) achieve something special in their life.  I get an opportunity every day to contribute to the community I live in.  That look of amazement and achievement that comes over a woman’s face as she greets her baby is just amazing.  I have a friend who asks if I can sense the soul entering the baby at birth – I don’t know that I do, but I certainly sense the lioness entering the woman, no matter how many babies she has had.

What would you like to see change in midwifery in Australia?

So very much.  I dream of the day when every woman can have the option of continuity of midwifery care, where our colleagues (medical, societal, nursing and especially hospital executives) recognise us as professionals in our own right with skills, knowledge and capability.

I long for midwives to actually walk the talk in terms of evidence based practice – particularly for lactation. We are lucky in Australia that we have contributed to midwifery research, but there is so much more to consider and know, so in an ideal world I would like more funding for projects and research.

I wish that all midwives would sign up as members of the college.  How can we ever achieve change for women if the majority of midwives don’t value membership, how can they expect the college to advocate for change if it doesn’t have a majority membership?  I also wish for the day that the ANMF is no longer threatened by midwives and actually represents them and chooses to work collaboratively with the college.

What is the biggest change in midwifery in Australia you have experienced?

Slowly we are being regarded as a profession in our own right, now I can (and have) dropped my registration as a nurse.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t value nurses – I do, but it is not what I am.  But the biggest change has been the rationalisation of care.  By that, I mean the way that government departments, lawyers and executives respond to negative events, and try to prevent them happening again by controlling every aspect.  It leaves the woman who wants something different in a very vulnerable place. 

Where do you see midwifery in 5/10/20/50 years?

Sadly, I see that we are returning to the dark days of the 70’s and 80’s, where women had no choice and were not recognised as being able to make competent decisions even if they were different to what the medical profession dictated.  In years to come, though, I think it will be departments and executives who do the dictating. Fortunately, there will always be those rebel women who will stand up for themselves, but sadly to get the care they want they may need to rely on doulas rather than midwives. I see more and more of our midwifery roles being taken by doulas, and that is sad for our profession.

When did you join ACM?

As soon as I was registered, the end of 1987.  In those days, there wasn’t a student membership option.  It was (and still should be) a professional responsibility to become a member of your professional organisation. It is just something that you do.

Why do you stay as a member of ACM?

I really do want to make a difference.  Midwifery has given me so much joy and I want to contribute to it beyond my day to day work.  I don’t have the skills to lead or inspire; I am neither articulate nor able to provide a solid debate, but what I do have is a doggedness and preparedness to work in the background.  Those bright and shiny leaders can’t do what they do without people like me working in the background – and that is how I can best contribute to this profession and the women we care for.

What is the most important aspect of your membership?

I love the collegiality of the college. I love that we can all contribute something in our own way, even if it is in the background.  I love that I can go to a conference still and have my midwifery heroes greet me by name.  I love the inspiration that comes from us working together or telling our stories.

What roles do you undertake for the ACM?

I was Victorian treasurer when the GST was introduced; I edited the Victorian newsletter “Open line”.  I am currently the Gippsland treasurer. I have been involved in 2 sub-branches and was heavily involved in the establishment of the Gippsland Branch.

Where has your membership of the ACM taken you?

It has certainly given me a deeper appreciation of professional issues within my day to day job.  Geographically, I have been to most of the 21 national conferences, so that has meant a visit to every capital city.  I have attended 4 ICM’s – Oslo, Brisbane, Edinburgh and Toronto.

Tell us a little about your non work life….

I live in a seaside town in Gippsland, which has many beautiful walking options.  I try to be as self-sufficient as possible in terms of fruit and vegetables, so I spend a lot of time in my garden.  I love a good op shop and am lucky to have friends and family in diverse areas of Victoria so always seem to be on the road somewhere.

What is your favourite non work thing to do?

A cliff top walk in perfect weather and an adventure with my special GFF’s.

What is your favourite song/movie/dance/activity?

NEIL (Diamond) – His music still does something to me.  I remember in my nursing days taking a quick trip to see him at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl – but then having to leave early so we could sneak back into the nurses’ home before curfew.  On the way to Toronto (ICM), I was lucky enough to get spectacular tickets to see him in New York – one of those special life moments!

Please Note:  The comments and opinions expressed in this blog post are that of the individual, and do not necessary reflect the views of the ACM.