27 years ago I ran my first training session for people wanting to be involved in a pregnancy support service in my regional Victorian city. The emphasis on this training was around practise standards and professional and ethical service delivery with a focus on the lived needs of women experiencing challenging circumstances during pregnancy.
In 2005 I began delivering this philosophy on a national level, urging those engaging with women in crisis to ensure they met appropriate standards of training and care and in 2006 established Real Choices Australia.
Our Real Choices Australia website is the 'go to' source for the latest evidence based research and statistics. We provide a platform for Australian women to share their stories of abortion loss and regret.
During all those years I have been absolutely committed to the support and upholding of women, whatever their decision-making. I have provided face to face and online training across all sectors of healthcare, to community groups, professionals and churches. I have presented at conferences both nationally and internationally, been invited to do a speaking tour of New Zealand universities and hosted annual conferences here in Australia. We invited international speakers on abortion and mental health, adoption, and men and abortion at these events.
Each of our international guests was impressed with our approach and I was invited to help establish such positive changes to a number of initiatives in the US and the UK.
Dr Priscilla Coleman was excited to become part of our Board of Directors and we have worked closely on research and projects for many years, including my current PhD research. Last year we had a paper published on our research into adoption, “From Birth Mothers to First Mothers: Toward a Compassionate Understanding of the Life-Long Act of Adoption Placement. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29108173
In 2007 I developed an online professional development program that has been completed by around 300 professionals and volunteers, including doctors, nurses, psychologists, counsellors, ministers and others, to give them knowledge and skills for effectively meeting the needs of women and families.
Many individuals and organisations began to see the enormous benefits to themselves and to their communities of embracing this new professional approach and a number of pregnancy support services have mandated completion of our online training for any person wishing to work at their centres. Many have also benefitted from our resources such as business plan templates and policies and procedures in their establishment phase.
In 2011, I worked with a local community to establish a pregnancy and parenting resource centre based on my vision and professional approach. That centre has grown and flourished and continues to serve the needs of families in their community today. We have supported, consulted to, and encouraged the establishment of new and existing centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Toowoomba, WA, Gippsland and other areas.
Two years ago we began work with a specialist team of doctors to establish Australia’s first network for mifepristone reversal and our first paper on case studies of reversal was published recently. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29260618
My messages about professionalising have not always been met with positivity, particularly in the early years. It was a difficult message to deliver and to hear, that more and better training needed to be provided and undertaken and that services needed to conduct intensive audits to ensure all of their services were ethical and of a professional standard.
I am delighted to see that what felt like an uphill battle for so many years, has been embraced by so many groups today. The focus on professional standards in many organisations is a great step forward, taking our vision for quality that puts women at the epicentre of services. It is encouraging to see the vision continue to grow.