Midwives Along the Murray

22 - 30 Mar 2021
  • Medical & Professional Tours

About the tour

This tour is supported by the Australian College of Midwives.

Explore the fascinating world of rural women, birthing, midwives, brothels and paddle steamers in the beautiful Riverina area of Victoria. Follow the mighty Murray River as it courses past Wodonga, Rutherglen, Echuca and Swan Hill and learn about the rich history of midwifery via huge redgum forests, lakes, rivers and rolling plains.

The Murray River rises in the Snowy Mountains in the Australian Alps and runs down the border between Victoria and New South Wales to South Australia. One of the largest rivers of the world, it is the life-giving umbilical cord of the area. Paddle steamers transformed the area after settlement, making it a busy thoroughfare and bringing women and families to the lands along the Murray. Midwives were much needed and their skills and experience intertwined with Indigenous and settler women for many years.

This tour provides a wide range of professional visits that highlight some outstanding examples of partnerships with Aboriginal communities and successful implementation of midwifery continuity of care for rural women. Cruise on a paddle steamer, learn about the Riverina’s vivid history, see the historic Catalina Flying Boat and amazing art silos, and sample artisan food and wine. Tour leaders Nicky Leap and Pat Brodie are both respected midwives of many years standing who continue to inspire and encourage midwives nationally and worldwide to take an active interest in the profession’s long history. This tour has broad appeal and partners are very welcome.

Every booking on the tour includes a donation to the Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund, a scholarship fund for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who wish to study to become midwives. There are fewer than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives registered in Australia. The scholarships go towards some of the costs incurred when undertaking studies, which may not be covered by other funding options. www.indigenousmidwives.org.au

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Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Nicky Leap and Pat Brodie

Nicky Leap and Pat Brodie

For almost 40 years, Nicky Leap has had a variety of roles in midwifery practice, education and research. She has published widely and is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences. Nicky is well known for her work supporting the development of midwifery models of care in both the UK and Australia.

Nicky grew up in the West Country in England where she was involved in setting up and promoting Women’s Aid Refuges. She became a National Childbirth Trust teacher in the 1970s and was a youth and community worker in London before training to be a midwife. In the 1990s, while living in South East London, Nicky was a member of the first group of self-employed midwives to contract into the NHS.

Nicky is co-author with Billie Hunter of the highly acclaimed textbook: Supporting Women for Labour and Birth: A Thoughtful Guide and The Midwife’s Tale: an oral history from handywoman to professional midwife. She is a member of the Australian College of Midwives Midwifery History group and has a strong interest in researching the lives of midwives and the women they attended in bygone days.

Pat Brodie is known, both nationally and internationally, for her leadership in a variety of roles spanning almost 40 years, in Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Pacific. She has led strategic reforms of policy, practice and regulation in maternity care, in particular, the development of midwifery continuity of care models.

Pat spent six years working with the Maternal and Child Health Initiative in PNG. Prior to this, she was the World Health Organisation’s Technical Adviser for midwifery education and regulation in PNG. In recognition of her contribution she received the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Social Inclusion Award. Over several decades Pat was state and national President of the Australian College of Midwives (ACM). She continues to have strong links with ACM, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and other agencies committed to building midwifery capacity and strengthening the profession globally. In 2012, Pat was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her services to midwifery and professional associations.

Nicky and Pat are both Adjunct Professors of Midwifery at UTS. With colleagues, they co-edited the recently published textbook: Midwifery Continuity of Care 2nd edition. In semi-retirement, they divide their time between living in Bristol (UK) and the Blue Mountains (Australia).

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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Albury Wodonga (Mon 22 March)
    Meet at the hotel and hear a talk: “A History of Midwifery along the Murray” by Dr Mavis Gaff-Smith. Welcome dinner in the evening.
  • Day 2: Albury Wodonga / Rutherglen (Tues 23 March)
    Visit the Wodonga Maternity Unit and learn how maternity services have changed over the years on the border and the recent challenges during Covid, and how midwives are working in partnership with Aboriginal women. Continue via the Granny Mary Caton Bridge at Howlong to beautiful Rutherglen, one of the great centres of Australian wine making. Wine tasting, dinner and overnight at Tuileries Winery in Rutherglen.
  • Day 3: Rutherglen (Wed 24 March)
    Drive to Chiltern to visit Lake View Homestead, home of the writer Ethel Florence Richardson (author of The Getting of Wisdom). The house contains a 19th century birthing chair. Continue to the Dow Pharmacy which operated from 1859 to 1956 and is now a museum. Return to Rutherglen and visit Wicked Virgin Vineyard and Olive Grove for lunch and olive and wine tastings. Learn of their wine making and olive harvests.
  • Day 4: Rutherglen / Echuca (Thurs 25 March)
    Drive to Corowa and learn about the O’Reilly sisters and see the old St Margaret (Private) Hospital on Betterment Parade. Visit Federation Museum in Corowa – the birthplace of Federation. Continue via Yarrawonga and see the Yarrawonga-Mulwala Pioneer Museum. Drive along the river to Barmah, traditional land of the Yorta Yorta people and one of the largest redgum forests in the world, which includes Indigenous canoe trees. There is a birthing tree a short distance from the road. Arrive in Echuca and meet with Andrea Quanchi, who has provided home birth services in the area for over 20 years, and learn about how rural maternity services have evolved over recent decades and her recent role as a Director of ‘My Midwives’ - a private midwifery service working in partnership with public hospitals. Partners at leisure. Dinner and overnight in Echuca.
  • Day 5: Echuca (Fri 26 March)
    Walking tour of the old town of Echuca with a specialist guide from the historical society. Hear stories on women, birthing, Shinbone Alley, fire and flood, midwives and brothels, early private maternity hospitals and Pearl Wallace, the first female riverboat captain. Afternoon at leisure. Dinner before a Port After Dark tour.
  • Day 6: Echuca (Sat 27 March)
    Take part in a driving tour of Campaspe Art Trail past painted silos, murals and installations and end up at the traditional regional market at Kyabram. Take a two-hour lunch cruise along the Murray on the Emmylou Paddle Steamer. Rest of the day is at leisure.
  • Day 7: Echuca / Swan Hill (Sun 28 March)
    Drive via the pretty towns of Gunbower, Cohua and Koondrook. Explore the attractive town of Koondrook Barham and walk along the river to see the redgum carvings, including one of famed midwife Nurse Rosen. Visit the cemetery where the gates were named after Nurse Rosen and see her tombstone. Drive via Kerang and learn of the midwife from Messina. Visit the Flying Boat Museum, home of the historic Catalina Flying Boat, on Lake Boga. Arrive in Swan Hill.
  • Day 8: Swan Hill (Mon 29 March)
    Visit the maternity unit in Swan Hill and learn about the midwifery clinic and postnatal home visiting service. Wrap up with Nicky and Pat. Farewell dinner and drinks on the river.
  • Day 9: Swan Hill / Albury Wodonga (Tues 30 March) Return to Wodonga, having lunch with midwives from the Murrumbidgee Local Health District en route. Arrive Wodonga mid-afternoon.

Tour cost

The cost of the tour is $3,460 per person sharing

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