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Politics and the professions: Homebirth in Western Australia

Thorogood, Carol (2000) Politics and the professions: Homebirth in Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis explores the historical, social, political and economic influences on the politics of Australian homebirth, specifically the processes whereby the state enables or restricts independent midwifery practice.

By using documentary sources of letters, official correspondence, literature reviews, interviews with key stakeholders and case studies the thesis provides an historical overview and interpretative critique of the cultural, political and bureaucratic processes surrounding the provision of midwife-managed homebirth services. It shows how authoritative knowledge about birthing is created, promulgated and challenged, highlighting the nexus between authoritative knowledge and the distribution of medical power. The Commonwealth’s Alternative Birthing Services Program is used as a case study to illustrate how the medical discourses of 'risk' and 'safety' legitimate medical power and practice as well as the relative lack of power of midwives. Just as importantly, the thesis demonstrates how birth activists overcame the obstacles placed in their paths and in doing so used the Alternative Birthing Services Program to create new models of woman-centred birthing.

This thesis argues that an important objective for both bureaucrats and the midwifery profession is to continue to challenge and indeed change entrenched patriarchal, state-supported medical practices. Only then will homebirths be regarded not as an alternative but one of a range of core, mainstream birthing options.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Thiele, Beverly
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