NSW SENIOR OF THE YEAR: Dr Catherine Hamilin with patients from the Addis Ababa Hamlin Fistula Hospital.
NSW SENIOR OF THE YEAR: Dr Catherine Hamilin with patients from the Addis Ababa Hamlin Fistula Hospital.

Women's health champion awarded NSW Senior of the Year

THE ground-breaking doctor Catherine Hamlin AC is NSW's selection for 2018 Senior Australian of the Year.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the nomination at last night's function at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Dr Hamlin has for over 50 years dedicated her life and professional skills to breaking through the barriers of Ethiopian culture to set up and run the critical service of obstetric fistula repair operations for women.

Her organisation's goal is to eradicate this "most horrific childbirth injury" which is an internal injury caused by an obstructed labour during childbirth that leaves the mother incontinent and humiliated with a lingering odour.

To achieve this goal the obstetrician and her late husband Reginald, has overseen the opening of the Hamlin Fistula hospital in Addis Ababa and then six regional hospitals, the training of Ethiopian midwives within its own training college, and helping the patients to develop income-earning skills they can take back to their villages.

Ethiopian women travel vast distances and in incredibly poor conditions to reach the Hamlin hospitals in the hope of restoring their health and their dignity. Those that can make it to one of the hospitals are treated with respect and love. They are shown how to recover from their surgery successfully and how to look after themselves better in the future.

"The hospitals provide free fistula repair surgery to poor women suffering from horrendous and preventable childbirth injuries," the official nomination reads.

"The midwifery college trains midwives to prevent the injuries. 

"When Catherine arrived in Ethiopia in 1959, there were almost no resources for expectant mothers. Since then she has treated more than 50,000 women, restoring their health and dignity.

"Catherine's organisation is a global centre of expertise in fistula repair and she trains surgeons from around the world.

"Through her foundation, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, Catherine is tackling a new fistula frontier, Uganda.

Dr Hamilin, now 93, is still active at the hospital, healing women through surgery, rehabilitation and counselling, so they can be whole again. She remains remains resident in Addis Ababa in the house where it all started. The control of the various arms of the charitable organisation are run by a local board of governors led by Ethiopian chief executive officer Dr Tesfaye Yacob while the clinical head Dr Fekade Ayenachew, was originally trained by Dr Hamlin.

Her niece, Dr Alison Morgan, accepted the award on her behalf saying that Catherine is "enormously humbled" by the news, and very pleased that it will help to focus attention on the plight of women who suffer with childbirth injuries.

For more information on Dr Hamlin's work, go to www.hamlin.org.au

The winner of the 2018 Australian Senior of the Year will be announced on January 25, 2018 at a ceremony in Canberra.

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