Women’s Hospitals Australasia was formally established in 1994, following incorporation under the Associations Incorporation Act. Prior to that time, it had operated informally as a coalition of women’s hospitals who met informally from time to time to discuss matters of similar concern.
At the time of formation, there was considerable discussion across jurisdictions about abolishing women’s hospitals. Those who had been involved in women’s health came together to demonstrate that women and their families benefitted from having women’s hospitals or dedicated women’s health units.
When the group met informally, meetings were led by Mr Gary Henry who was Chief Executive Officer of The Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. Other key participants at the time were Ms Judith Dwyer (Queen Victoria Hospital for Women, Adelaide), Dr Christine Bennet (Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney) and Dr Jean Collie (Royal Women’s Hospital, Brisbane). When the organisation was formally established, Ms Judith Dwyer was elected inaugural president. The nine initial member hospitals were:
- King George V Hospital, Sydney (now part of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital)
- King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Perth
- Queen Victoria Hospital for Women, Adelaide
- Mater Mother’s Hospital, Brisbane
- Mercy Maternity Hospital, Melbourne (now Mercy Hospital for Women)
- Royal Hobart Hospital
- Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney
- Royal Women’s Hospital, Brisbane
- The Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne
A deliberate decision was made to establish the organisation in Canberra and offices were rented within the then Australian Hospitals Association. Anne Cahill Lambert was appointed inaugural Executive Officer (then Chief Executive Officer). She had been providing administrative support to the informal group prior to incorporation, having drafted the Constitution and provided a secretariat to the group.
The aims of the Association were to:
- Provide a forum for hospitals with common interests and concerns;
- Benchmark and identify best practice
- Advocate for women, neonates and their families.
A couple of years later, the Association took on the role of supporting the then Association of Paediatric Teaching Hospitals, later to become Children’s Hospitals Australasia. This was a useful link as the objectives of the two organisations were similar and frequently women’s and children’s hospitals were co-located.
Shortly after formal incorporation, the Association established a clinical forum program, similar in focus to that established by Children’s Hospitals Australasia. In addition, annual publications on benchmarking in obstetrics became one of the key successes of the Association. This publication was developed under the leadership of Dr Rob Buist who was then the medical adviser at National Women’s Hospital in Auckland.