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Joan Donley biography

Joan Donley was a midwife, social activist, lobbyist, political consultant, homebirth advocate, writer, researcher, mentor and visionary. Born in Canada, she trained as a nurse and worked in general and maternity wards before immigrating to New Zealand with her family in 1964. She gained her midwifery diploma in Auckland in the 1970s and became one of only three domiciliary (home birth) midwives in the country.

During the 1980s and ‘90s she challenged midwives to step out from under the nursing umbrella and reclaim midwifery as an autonomous profession. She was a strong advocate for forming an organisation that would enable this to happen and also for developing direct-entry midwifery education.

As a result, she became a founding member of the New Zealand College of Midwives, in addition to being involved in the “Save the Midwife” campaign and being a founding member of the New Zealand Home Birth Association.

Her dedication to midwifery and home birth were recognised in 1990 when she was awarded the OBE. Joan Donley died in 2005, aged 89, but her legacy and her commitment to evidence-informed practice lives on through the Joan Donley Research Collaboration.