Victoria government logo

Mary Paton

Mary Paton saw the need for establishing a network of support for mothers, and founded the Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia in 1964.

Honour Roll

Mary Paton saw the need for establishing a network of support for mothers, in particular breastfeeding mothers. In 1964, Mary held the first meeting in her home, enlisted the help of five other ladies and founded the Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia (NMAA).

These women, with Mary in a very active leading role, worked to establish the association with a constitution and a strict code of ethics. Continuing with counselling mothers and organising education of all officers of the association, Mary also liaised with government departments and medical associations to improve knowledge available to mothers and their medical advisers.

Mary was the first public face of the NMAA. Mary was the inspiration behind the Nursing Mothers International Workshop, titled Nurturing Tomorrows World, the first international meeting of mothers representing breastfeeding groups, held in Sydney in 1981. Women representing 18 countries together with noted health professionals, met for four days. The Workshop was opened by Lady Cowen, wife of the Governor-General and the agenda included organisation and management, coping with rapid growth, the physiological, medical and social factors influencing lactation.

The work of Mary and the NMAA has led to an increase in breastfeeding awareness, an increase in breastfeeding rates and a greater awareness in the value of breast milk. The NMAA has established an amazing network for women to support each other and to give women the opportunity to contribute to their community and their own growth. The NMAA has more requests for counselling each year than there are babies born in a year in Australia.

At present there are over 380 Nursing Mother groups nationwide with 145,000 members over 35 years. Mary has been an inspiration to members of the Nursing Mother's Association and wider community for over 35 years. The association Mary established is a voluntary organisation and has helped thousands of women around Australia to confidently breastfeed their babies.

Reviewed 27 May 2022

Was this page helpful?