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More Than Just A Union: a history of the AMA

This is a document that has been published to help mark the 50 th anniversary of the Federal Australian Medical Association. It traces the AMA’s growth from fractious beginnings as an offshoot of a British parent to a truly Australian member organisation that was voted Best Lobby Group in the country in a 2006 survey of Federal politicians.

Federal President Dr Steve Hambleton said, when launching the history, that it “contains the inside stories of the AMA’s role in the great upheavals in the history of Australian health, including Chifley and the Constitution, Medibank, Medicare, the NSW doctors' strike, and the more recent Rudd-Roxon reforms. It also looks at some of the larger-than-life characters who have led the AMA throughout 50 turbulent years.

“More Than Just A Union is deliberately called a history, not the history, and there is good reason for this,” Dr Hambleton said.

The history of medical organisation in Australia actually dated back to the early 1800s, when groups of doctors banded together under various names and for various objectives. But it was not until 1880 that branches of the British Medical Association were formally recognised in New South Wales and South Australia. “Others soon followed,” Dr Hambleton said, “but it wasn’t until 1962 that the Federal AMA as we know it was born.”

He said that the history had been pieced together from fragments of the AMA past from many sources to create a seamless narrative, “But the source material has been patchy in places: poor or incomplete record keeping, lost files, missing files and fading memories. It is therefore based on the records, recollections and resources of some of the people who built the AMA.

“Others will have different memories or different slants on what happened in AMA history, from long ago to more recent events,” Dr Hambleton said. “So this particular AMA history does not end here. It is the beginning. It is a living history.”

So, now that the history has been posted on the AMA website, Dr Hambleton has invited members to offer their comments on it; “offer their version of events or add episodes of AMA history that we may have missed. We want to build on this history, round it out, and fill in the gaps.”

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