JoanDonleyFightingWordsDecember 4, 2016 marks the 11th anniversary of the death of Joan Donley, who has been credited as the mother of modern home birth in New Zealand. When she started domiciliary midwifery practice n 1974 Joan joined the only two other domicilairy midwives in the country (Carolyn Young and the late Ursula Helem) who attended labour and birth at home as well as antenatal and postnatal visits.

Joan’s research into midwifery history and maternity politics in New Zealand was published in 1986 in her first book, Save the Midwife. Though she ceased practice in her mid 70s Joan remained poltically active until her 80s. Read more about Joan and see some of her papers.

WWAT-archives2Wise Woman Archives Trust Inc (WWAT) collects, preserves and makes available historical materials relating to maternity services in Aotearoa New Zealand. Originally housed in Birthspirit’s Cottage in a rural area, it was rarely used. The Collections are now progressively being digitised to ensure free and open access for research and learning purposes… more about WWAT

Auckland Home Birth Birth Association, 1977-1997 (WWAT 2007/3)

AucklandHBAlogoCroppedInitiated by consumers Barbara Macfarlane and Deryn Cooper and supported by their domiciliary midwife, Joan Donley, the Auckland Home Birth Association was launched  with 20 people in attendance on 1 May 1978. It and would meet until the late 1990s …read more

Save the Midwives newsletters (WWAT 2000/1)

SaveTheMidwiveslogoThe Save the Midwives Association was founded in 1983 to challenge the Nurses Amendment Act. Consisting mainly of consumers, it aimed to emancipate midwifery from domination by the medical and nursing professions through development of direct entry…read more

Sian Burgess, Papers relating to domiciliary midwifery and home birth, 1983-1992 (WWAT 2005/1)


Sian Burgess (White) practised as a domiciliary midwife (and later an Independant Midwife) in Auckland, New Zealand from 1980 until 2004. She trained as a midwife in the UK in 1974. Sian started domiciliary midwifery soon after the birth of her first child in 1980read more        

Domiciliary Midwives Society of New Zealand (Inc.), 1976-2000 (WWAT 2000/1)

DMScombinedFrom the mid to late 1970s the Midwives Special Interest Section of NZNA was overtly opposed to home birth. The Domicilairy Midwives Society formed in 1981 and would became the voice of domiciliary midwifery…read more

Obstetrical Case Books

Obstetrical CasebooksObstetrical Case Books, also known as the H.-Mt.15, were used to record the lectures and practical experience of student midwives, maternity nurses and nurses during their training. The practical experience required by trainees did not change from 1935 to at least 1960….read more