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Vale Kath Kehoe

Vale Kath Kehoe

Kath Kehoe. Photo: ANMF (Vic Branch)

ANMF (Vic Branch) was saddened to hear of the passing in August of well-loved and widely revered maternal and child health nurse Kathleen Kehoe.

Known to family and friends as Kath, she was a dedicated and pioneering nurse and midwife. She began her training as a general nurse at St Vincent’s Hospital in 1954, then did midwifery training at St Vincent’s Maternity in 1957. Her decade as a midwife included a year spent working on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, in what turned out to be a formative experience – as were her eight years working in the South Kensington public housing estate, with no doctor onsite and only herself to care for more than 3500 people.

In 1962, Kath enrolled in Melbourne’s first ICU course for nurses, run by St Vincent’s. Then, in the late 60s, she began her training in infant welfare, before gaining her diploma in public health nursing.

An active life member of the Victorian Association of Maternal and Child Health Nurses (ANMF ( Vic Branch) Special Interest Group (VAMCHN), Kath was tireless in promoting the interests of maternal and child heath nursing, and fiercely dedicated to supporting mothers and infants. Kath was a force to be reckoned with in the fight against Jeff Kennett’s cuts to the MCH service in the 1990s. She led and mobilised her local community and other MCH nurses to ensure women and children had access to high quality maternal and child health nursing care. Through rallying, speaking to media and meeting with parliamentarians, they got the message out, and across, and helped secure the future of the service.

Family was central to Kath, whether her own or her clients’. She worked at the Albert Park Maternal and Child Health Centre – where she herself had been cared for as an infant – for more than three decades. Her commitment to, and standing in, the local community was evident, with a common family anecdote noting that ‘it was almost impossible to walk around the Albert Park shops with Kath, as you would be stopped every five metres by mothers thanking her for helping them.’

Indeed, such was her standing within the community that when Kath retired in 2010, the mayor and several City of Port Phillip councillors attended her farewell celebration.

The Branch posthumously thanks Kath for 50-plus years of service, and sends its condolences to her family, friends and loved ones.