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Celebrating 100 years

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September 14, 2017

Maternal and Child Health nurses working during World War II.

Maternal and Child Health nurses working during World War II.

Maternal and Child Health in the Strathbogie Shire region is a very different reality today than when it first began in 1937.

Euroa Historical Society president Roma Joyce recalls a time around 1960 when the infant welfare centre operated out of a tiny room at the Council office.

‘‘The room was so small we had to leave our prams outside, and if it was raining you just had to throw something over the pram and hope for the best,’’ she said.

Maternal and Child Health is celebrating 100 years in Victoria this year.

One hundred years ago was an even greater contrast to today.

In 1914, 10 to 11 per cent of babies born in Melbourne died before their first birthday.

Such alarming mortality rates prompted an international infant welfare movement and saw a committee of Melbourne medical practitioners recommend the establishment of baby health clinics across Victoria.

Poverty and lack of education were the major concerns during this time, with many deaths caused by preventative diseases associated with unrefrigerated milk, because breastfeeding was unpopular at the time.

The first baby health centre was established in Richmond in 1917 with Nurse Muriel Peck, who started with one set of scales, a desk and a notebook.

By 1927 there were 99 centres across the state and infant mortality rates had halved.

Strathbogie Shire’s first Maternal and Child Health nurse was Foundation Sister Catherine Fahey, who began consulting in 1937 and visited Euroa and Violet Town.

By June 1996, services had expanded to cover the whole shire, with the employment of current long-serving nurse Jane Davey, who said things were much different back then.

‘‘We hand-wrote everything and there were no mobile phones,’’ she said.

‘‘With such a large area to cover, being the only nurse for the Shire was very challenging at times.’’

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