Back 11 April 2013

Building strong midwife associations in Pasifika

In March a meeting was held in Auckland, New Zealand, the focus of which was Midwifery in the Pacific Islands. This was organised jointly by ICM, the New Zealand College of Midwives (NZCOM) and the Australian College of Midwives (ACM) and kindly hosted by NZCOM.

There were a wide range of stakeholders at the meeting including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), NZCOM including the Pasifika and Maori midwife groups, Papua New Guinea Midwife Association (PNGMS), Solomon’s Islands Midwifery Society (SIMS), Pacific Society for Reproductive Health, World Vision, NZ Parliamentarians Pacific Group on population and development, Auckland University of Technology, Otago Polytechnic, WHO Collaborating Centre University of Technology Sydney (UTS), UNICEF and Health Workforce New Zealand. ICM were represented by Sue Bree, a New Zealand midwife and ICM Board member for Asia-Pacific and Rachael Lockey, Technical Midwife Advisor from the ICM headquarter in The Hague, Netherlands. The focus of this meeting was on midwifery, in particular midwifery education, in the Pasifika, a group of islands that includes the countries of Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Whole group at the Pacific Meeting in March 2013
Being made up of many islands there can be considerable geographical challenges to providing health care in the Pasifika. Kathy Gapirongo, President of Solomon Islands Midwifery Society and Vice president of the Pacific Society for Reproductive Health, gave participants an overview of her country. The Solomon Islands are made up of six main islands and over 900 smaller islands known as coral atolls. 85% of the population lives in rural villages, often in mountainous areas. There are 15,000 babies born a year in the Solomon Islands. Honiara, the capital, is the tertiary referral centre for all the islands, transfers are made by boat or charter aircraft. Midwifery education has been experiencing some challenges in the last few years and Kathy is determined to get it back on track. She is also working towards SIMS becoming a member of ICM.

The meeting was opened by a traditional Maori welcome, Tangat Whenua. Following this Sue Bree made an opening address and presented the work of ICM including the ICM Global standards, competencies, tools for education, regulation and association. Participants then shared knowledge about countries and programmes, about societies they were representing and information about midwifery education and regulation in their countries. A particularly moving address was given by Mary Matagi, a Samoan midwife of the recently formed Pasifika midwife chapter of NZCOM.

Through group activities and consensus it was agreed that priories for next steps were to focus on building strong midwife associations in Pasifika and working towards strengthening and standardisation of midwifery education across the region, including adopting the ICM Global standards for midwifery education and core competencies for midwifery practice. 

A workshop is now being planned to take place during the forthcoming PSRH conference in Samoa in July 2013 with the focus of developing and strengthening midwifery associations. More information read here 
Meetings can be intense and this was no exception as participants worked hard in order to maximise this valuable time together. However, fun is important too and a wonderful evening event was hosted by the Pasifika Midwife section of NZCOM, including Pasifika spit roast provided by Mary Matagi and her family and island dancing.

Tupela Twins: PNG and Australia

The Pasifika meeting also presented an oppurtunity for Tupela Twins to meet once again. Tupela, meaning two in PNG, is a Twinning under the ICM Twinning initiative, between midwife associations in PNG and Australia. PNG twin Nancy Buasa, President of the Papua New Guinea Midwifery Society came together with Australian twins Ann Kinnear, Chief Executive, ACM and Pat Brodie, who currently works in PNG with WHO.


Pasifika Meeting March 2013

From left to right:

Nancy Buasa, President of the Papua New Guinea Midwifery Society

Sue Bree, ICM Board member for Asia-Pacific and New Zealand Midwife

Kathy Gapirongo, President of the Soloman Ilsands Midwifery Association

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