Most consumer representatives do end up in as a consumer representative on some type of committee (maternity, women and child health, consumer engagement etc.).
Some tips for meeting etiquette:
- ensure you’ve been given the Terms of Reference, Agenda and any documents that need to be read through prior to the meeting. Some committees are well organized and will ensure you have this in advance, others may send last minute, which can make it difficult to have time to peruse. Also be aware that there is the expectation consumers are remunerated for their time and contribution (this doesn’t always happen), but Health Consumer Queensland do have recommended payment r
- Document - is it easy to understand? Does it reinforce informed decision making? Does it cater for low health literacy levels? Is it woman centred? Cultural appropriateness? (Whilst you might no the able to provide feedback for all of these points, even raising them as points in the feedback may allow for more discussion about the direction of the document.
- Teleconference- Ensure you've been provided with the Agenda, Terms of Reference, dial in details and any reading maternity well before the teleconference.
How to find a maternity consumer representative position:
- Your statewide consumer organisation eg. HCQ (Health Consumers Queensland)- consider signing up to their mailing list, they send out positions regularly, and some of them are maternity consumer representative position. Please let us know, as we’ll need to endorse you.
- Through us- sometimes we are approached directly for consumer representatives. This may be for one off reviews of documents, but also longer term, regular meetings on committees- both locally, state and federally. You will need to be endorsed by us. This is simply because being a consumer is very different from consumer representation, and to represent consumers, you need to feed back to your organization and ask around other consumers to effectively represent.
- You can also directly approach your hospital and health service- by calling the local Midwifery Unit Manager or Nursing Director- they may have a position they haven’t advertised outside.
It’s in the interest of your Local Member (State and Federal to listen and act on your concerns as a consumer).
Which MP to see?
It is worth seeing both your State and Federal MP. Often women are told by their federal MP that this is a state issue because hospitals are the responsibility of the states. However, the federal government provides significant funding to the states for hospital run services, plus they provide funding to Medicare (check out the infographic which simplifies it:
Watch this MPs powerful speech in the Senate about birth choices (it came about due to consumer advocacy): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNJA4k-2OkI
Many women and families with the same message will be heard.
Rallying does work.
Combining consumer representation and advocacy can be really effective in making changes. Consider if you can utilise the media to help raise your profile or help with your advocacy efforts in your area. More information on sending a media release: https://inspiringnsw.org.au/2017/11/28/pitching-to-the-media/
Below are some letters and submissions for various maternity issues that may be of use as a guide to writing a letter to your local MP.
Finding your consumer rep feet