Maternal and Child Health Service 100 year anniversary

For the past 100 years, Maternal and Child Health (MCH) nurses have been there for Victorian families.

Their expert advice on all aspects of parenting — from growth and development to sleeping and toilet training — has earned them a special place in the hearts of generations of parents across the state.

This year we recognise and commemorate a century of care from our MCH nurses with a great big thank you, and opportunities to reflect, celebrate and share stories from our nurses about the role they have played in helping every Victorian child get the best start in life.

Nurses like Bernie Harrison, Greater Dandenong’s MCH and Immunisation Coordinator, who has spent time interviewing her mum, 89 year old former Infant Welfare Nurse Verna Reeve, to uncover some of her nursing history.

“I was really intrigued, but I was also really interested because I wanted to see what the variations were, what had changed from when Mum was doing her Infant Welfare … back in the 50’s,” Bernie said.

“From mum’s days it was about the mothers coming in, their babies were unwrapped, they were thrown on the scales and then they were told ‘you must give this baby a bottle’ or ‘you must do this three hourly’.

Listening to families

“I guess from where I’ve come from over the last 20-odd years is that it’s about listening to the families. It’s about what’s important to them. We have our program, we have our guidelines that we follow, but it’s about listening to them and working together and ensuring the best outcomes for our children in our community.”

The centenary celebrations will reflect on the history of the service and how it has improved the lives of Victorians over the past 100 years.

It is hard to believe that 100 years ago, one in every 10 babies born in Melbourne died within their first year.

And these were only the deaths that were reported.

The death of a child was usually only recorded if a baby was born in a hospital, which often wasn’t the case.

A century of expert advice

In response to such unacceptably high infant mortality rates, the first Baby Health Centre was established in the City of Yarra in Richmond in June 1917.

There are now 662 physical MCH Centres across Victoria and over 1100 MCH nurses.
As well as centres across Victoria, there is also the MCH Line, a phone service offering 24/7 support to any Victorian family with a young child. 

MCH Line Acting Senior Nurse Louise Wilson has been working in the sector for the past 35 years and said she was looking forward to the Collingwood celebration.
“It really is very rewarding work,” she said.

“You become part of a local community and you have an opportunity to have a really positive impact on families by supporting them and enabling social connection through mothers’ groups.”

Celebrating MCH100

As home to the first Baby Health Centre, the City of Yarra, along with the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) and the Department of Education and Training, hosted a centenary celebration on June 30.

Local governments throughout Victoria are also being encouraged to organise events to celebrate with their communities and share these events via social media with the hashtag #MCH100.

To find out more, visit the Municipal Association of Victoria website. See:  MCH centenary events

For more information​

To access MCH services, see: Parents - Maternal and Child Health Services

To find out more about the Victorian Government's plans to improve Maternal and Child Health services, see: Early Childhood Reform Plan and Maternal and Child Health Fact Sheets

To read the Early Childhood Reform Plan MCH announcement, see: More Support For New Parents And Their Children