For Malorie Hodge, one of our 2022 graduates and this year’s Herbert Burton Medal 2022 recipient, midwifery isn’t just a day job – it has an important role to play in activism and human rights.
It’s one of the reasons she was drawn to a career as a midwife, inspired by the transformational effect and deeply rewarding impact midwifery can have.
“Midwifery is inherently political and can be a form of activism – it’s deeply intertwined with the civil, social and reproductive rights of women and birthing people and can play a role in dismantling systems that infringe on human rights,” she says.
“Midwives ensure the best interests of women and birthing people are at the forefront in our work, for an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
The tremendous impact this experience can have – positive or negative, is something Malorie is acutely aware of, alongside the importance of ensuring all women and birthing people feel safe and supported.
“The experience of pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period – can really shape and change women’s [and birthing peoples] lives and that’s the attitude I want to bring to work every day. It’s essential to ensure our clients all walk away from their experience with the health system and midwifery feeling supported and powerful in their new role as parents.”
She sees advocacy as essential and on top of her studies she served as a student representative to the ACT Branch of the Australian College of Midwives and as a committee member of the UC Midwifery Society, ensuring she had the opportunity to step up and promote the field and the changes she wants to see in it.
It’s worth noting she was also balancing part-time work in the Australian Public Service and caring for her children at the same time.
“I really believe in the importance of grassroots activism and promoting midwifery as a profession –I was trying to do my bit and be a voice for the cohort I represented,” she says.
“Midwifery students are the future of midwifery, and should have a seat at the table, so I felt I was in a position to contribute.”
For someone who admired the midwifery profession from afar for many years but didn’t have the courage to pursue it at first – and battled major self-doubt about her ability to be a midwife – it’s an empowering transition.
Malorie spent years working in the public service after moving to Canberra at 20 years old, before her desire to become a midwife was reignited following a very positive birthing experience of her own. She began to pursue a university qualification in 2017.
Her first experience with UC was via the UC Prep course – a 14-week pathway program that helps prepare students for university, so they can apply for admission.
She credits this program with giving her the confidence to move forward with her studies after initially worrying she wouldn’t be able to keep up.
This doubt was surely unfounded, and this year she graduates not only with a bachelor’s degree in midwifery, and a high-distinction average but also as the Herbert Burton Medal 2022 recipient – honoured for her outstanding academic results and the valuable contributions she has made to UC and the wider community.
Her study at UC also gave Malorie the best chance to engage with her passion – continuity midwifery.
“The curriculum at UC is centred on continuity of midwifery care – which is the gold standard of care and has the best outcomes for women and birthing people.”
“To register with AMNAC [the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Accreditation Council] you need 10 continuity experiences – at UC I had 22. I’m so glad they champion this in their curriculum, and I was so supported by the staff during my studies.
“Around 30 per cent of women have access to continuity care in the ACT, and it’s much less in many other states in Australia. The findings are even worse when you break down who is receiving these opportunities, with many areas and community groups having far less access.
“A huge majority of women go through one of the most transformative days and periods of their lives [antenatal, birth and postnatal] in a fragmented model of care, and this is something I desperately want to see change.
“It’s pretty staggering when you also consider the evidence showing continuity care is the safest, most cost-effective model of care, and the one women want – but also when you consider the impact it has on reducing perinatal deaths and increasing women and birthing people’s satisfaction with their care.”
Championing continuity care is something Malorie intends to pursue further now that she has finished her undergraduate degree.
She is currently working at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children (CHWC) but has also received an honours scholarship through ACT Health to continue her studies at UC, which she will begin in Semester Two of this year.
After that, she has her eyes on the CHWC’s Transition to Continuity Program – an 18-month program that will see her established as a continuity midwife.
When asked about receiving this honour, Malorie is incredibly grateful – but also to her core, impeccably humble. She is an alumna who embodies the values of UC, daring to be curious and always looking to do more – we can’t wait to see what she achieves next.
Words by Kalyx Jorgensen, photo by Maddi Green.
This March, the University of Canberra would like to congratulate the graduating classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
We are so glad we can celebrate your journey – you have grown in so many ways, and risen to meet challenges with grace and creativity.
Many of you are already impacting your chosen fields, while others embark on the postgraduate study path.
We are so proud of you all, and we can't wait to see what you will do next.