This will be the first COVID-19 restriction free Christmas and Festive Season in Australia since December 2019 and my hope is that you stay well, healthy and enjoy time with your loved ones over this period. Nurturing our relationships is what makes the work we do sustainable in many ways.
The backend support we receive from the friends and family who check in on us makes a difference. Knowing that others care and understand what you are feeling even when you can’t be together helps ease the loneliness that some people might be feeling during this time, so my suggestion is that you pick up the phone and tell someone you’ve lost touch with or haven’t spoken to in a while, that you are thinking of them and ask them how they are. Try to plan a face to face catch up if possible or share a good book, or TV series you can then talk about at your next catch up. We all like connecting over something that is a shared experience and creates opportunities to just do more of that. A book I highly recommend is Honourable Healers, by our own Dr Merrilyn Murnane AM.
We started the year with an AFMW Event that aimed to prepare us for the vaccination programmes, then hosted the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 66th parallel session, Australian Women Doctors: Climate Change and Gender Equity Advocates and Activists to which we invited Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) Deputy Chair Dr Kimberly Humphrey and other guest speakers. July was the month of the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) Triennial Conference which was hosted by zoom in Taiwan and where several of us chaired sessions and presented. July is also NAIDOC week and we have another three bursary recipients of the Purple Bush Medicine Leaves Bursary, which has become a key event for AFMW since the inaugural event in 2021.
Continuing education through sessions for our members and friends is a priority however, sharing important information with the community has been an equal priority through A Current Affair, mainstream media such as The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, and on numerous occasions for the non-English speaking community through Neos Kosmos and other outlets as well. Women’s Health Week in September was particularly busy with an open session on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and heavy menstrual bleeding for the University of Melbourne Students. Shortly after that, I presented on a panel for a session organised by the Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) on the topic of Female Genital Mutilation / Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery in Australia. The same month, MJA Insight+ published my commentary which gives historical perspectives on Endometriosis, in which I talk about the interplay between gender, science, religion and politics. Another piece I wrote on endometriosis and was published in AusDoc , which focuses on how GPs can help women with endometriosis.
As the year transitions to 2023, the medical profession continues to be stretched to its maximum capacity and despite this, the AFMW team has forged on with key activities, advocacy and partnerships which align with our strategic plan. See this wonderful contribution by our AFMW Executive member Dr Marjorie Cross on doctor’s health, who recommends this and which reminds us to look out for and support each other.
Some of the key advocacy submissions we have made this year include:
- 15th April 2022, Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery
- 24th November 2021 Review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 2/2/2022
- 15th December 2022, Australian Federation of Medical Women (AFMW) submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare
- 15th December 2022, Endorsement of the submission led by Australasian Menopause Society (AMS) on Mainstreaming menopause: equity in knowledge, access and care.
Executive / Council
We had another successful Annual General Meeting with approved changes to our AFMW Executive and Council and the outlined pathway towards evolving AFMW through governance review, which is a very positive move forward into the 21st century. My opening statement around my vision for AFMW was captured in this simple list of statements:
- We build medical women leaders.
- We support women in leadership.
- We support women into leadership.
- We support each other through hard times.
- We share, talk about, celebrate our successes.
- We build partnerships.
- We act with kindness.
- We support the health of all Australians and apply the gender lens to health reforms and systems to achieve equity.
Support and Leadership
Along these lines and on the theme of supporting women in and into leadership, the recipients of the AFMW President’s Awards this year were:
- Professor Raina MacIntyre
President’s Award for excellent contribution to the health of Australia and leadership.
- Dr Merrilyn Murnane AM
President’s Honour In recognition of her excellent contribution to the Australian Federation of Medical Women, community and profession.
- Dr Madhura Naidu
President’s Young AFMW Award In recognition of her excellent contribution to the Victorian Medical Women’s Society and AFMW.
We also launched the inaugural young AFMW Core Confidence Leadership scholarship which was received by Dr Madeleine Warrilow.
It’s important to focus on our achievements, take a breath to appreciate this and recharge filling ourselves with new energy to continue next year. I thank all who have contributed to making my journey with AFMW so fulfilling and extend a hearty ‘thank you’ to AFMW members, executive and council for the work achieved nationally and state-wide. We know that there is much yet to be done but for now, I wish you all peace, some good quality rest and look forward to seeing you all at our first AFMW Council meeting Tuesday 7th February of 2023.
PS Dates to Save – AFMW 2023 Council Meetings:
- Tuesday 7th Feb 2023
- Tuesday 9th May 2023
- Tuesday 1st August 2023
- November Saturday 11th AGM
- November Monday 20th SPM
Magdalena is the President of the AFMW (2020-) and former President of VMWS (2013 & 2017-2020). She is a leading women’s health expert, keynote speaker, climate change and gender equity advocate, government advisor and holds positions on several not for profit organisations bridging gaps across the health sector.
Magdalena’s deep engagements with the RACGP over many years includes chair of Women in General Practice, is currently on the RACGP Expert Committee Quality Care, prior to that on RACGP eHealth Expert Committee. She is a regular media spokesperson on numerous health issues, being interviewed most weeks by mainstream and medical media. Magdalena has represented the RACGP at senate enquiries and has worked on several National Health Framework reviews, author of the RACGP Guide on Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery and co-reviewer of the RACGP Red Book Women’s Health Chapter.
Both an RACGP examiner and University examiner she supervises medical students and undertakes general practice research and is a GP Educator. Roles outside of RACGP include the Strategy and Policy Committee for Breast Cancer Network Australia, Board Director of the Melbourne University Teaching Health Clinics and the elected GP representative to the AMA Federal Council.
Magdalena has presented at the United Nations as part of the Australian Assembly and was recently appointed the Australian representative to the World Health Organisation, World Assembly on COVID 19, by the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA).
A/Professor Simonis was a member of the National COVID-19 Taskforce expert committee which will lead into the development of the Australian CDC.