The Herstory of the Annual Ceremony
On August 5th 1988 Judge Silvia Cartwright’s report on the Inquiry into the treatment of cervical cancer at National Women’s Hospital was publicly released.
On August 5th the following year the Auckland Women’s Health Council organised a conference to discuss progress on implementing the recommendations contained in the Cartwright Report. The events of the day included a visit to the Statue of Peace sited in front of the hospital where women gathered to remember those women who had been part of “the unfortunate experiment” at the hospital during the 1960s and 1970s, and who died or were damaged as a result of not receiving the treatment they needed.
The visit was the first of what is now an annual ceremony held in front of the statue on August 5th each year as we gather to bring flowers in memory of the women who died and those who suffered.
On 18 September 1993, Women’s Health Action unveiled a plaque and planted a pohutukawa tree in memory of Dr Bill McIndoe, cytologist and colposcopist at the hospital from 1963-83, and Dr Malcolm McLean, who was a pathologist at the hospital from 1961–88. The ceremony was attended by family, friends and colleagues of the two doctors, members of women’s health groups, the manager of National Women’s Hospital, and people who had been involved in the Cervical Cancer Inquiry who attended to acknowledge the efforts of both men to get action within the hospital over the cervical cancer experiments.
The tree and plaque are beside a path in the hospital grounds near what used to be the colposcopy clinic where Dr McIndoe worked and overlooked by Dr McLean’s pathology laboratory.
Since 1993 the annual ceremony at the statue of peace is always followed by a walk to the back of the building to lay flowers around the plaque beneath the now large pohutukawa tree which is always in flower in August while we pause to acknowledge the work of both men and the price they paid for what they did.