Media release

More than just a union: a history of the AMA

To help mark the 50th anniversary of the Federal AMA, AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, today released a new publication, More Than Just A Union: A History of the AMA.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, Dr Hambleton said the publication 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.

“The AMA has long been a key player in health policy development and the growth of the Australian health system,” Dr Hambleton said.

“This publication 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.

“The history of medical organisation in Australia actually dates back to the early 1800s with groups of doctors banding together under various names and for various objectives.

“It wasn’t until 1880, however, that branches of the British Medical Association (BMA) were formally recognised in New South Wales and South Australia.  Others soon followed.  But it wasn’t until 1962 that the Federal AMA as we know it was born.

“This publication has 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.

“So this particular AMA history does not end here.  It is the beginning.  It is a living history.  It will be posted on the AMA website and we will invite people to provide comment, 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.”

Dr Hambleton paid tribute to the Federal AMA’s Dominic Nagle, who managed the research and put in many months writing More Than Just A Union.

More Than Just A Union: A History of the AMA is at


18 July 2012


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