Maternity Coalition: Australia's national maternity consumer advocacy organization
Newman, Lareen Ann
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This chapter tells the story of the Maternity Coalition (MC), an Australian advocacy organization which represents an often ‘forgotten’ strand of the women’s movement — the maternalist feminist emphasis on reclaiming women’s rights in birth and breastfeeding. Having originated in the late 1980s to lobby state government inquiries for improved maternity services in the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria, by 2008 the organization was established nationally and was acknowledged as a key stakeholder in the incoming federal government’s agenda for improving maternity care. This chapter first examines how the Maternity Coalition developed, its rationale and mothering discourse, and then considers challenges which the organization faces in the early 21st century. Developing from a state-based to a national organization, MC faces internal sustainability difficulties in terms of communicating and managing a voluntary organization mostly comprised of busy young mothers. The external challenges are also considerable—MC aims to change the entrenched system of maternity services but in a cultural context which values technology and professional expertise and a political economic context in which the medical profession holds significant power. Nonetheless, Australia’s Maternity Coalition has achieved a national profile and credibility, bringing women’s rights to options and optimal care in birth to public attention at a level not achieved in many comparable countries.