Early Parenting Centre

June 05, 2019

Adjournment - My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health in the other place, and the action I seek is that she visit Shepparton to meet with the proponents of an early parenting centre. Of all the matters I have lobbied this government for over my time in this place, an early parenting centre, which I have always referred to previously as a mother-baby unit, is one of the most pressing. There has been strong advocacy for many years for the establishment of an early parenting centre in Shepparton. My husband, a senior consultant paediatrician for over 35 years in Shepparton, commenced lobbying back in 1997. I am disappointed that the budget last week allocated $135.1 million for seven new early parenting centres, with new centres for Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong and metropolitan areas but not Shepparton. If the government is seeking the greatest return on its investment, there is no better place to invest than Shepparton.

Our need is arguably more pressing than the other three regional centres. I say this, Minister, because there is much evidence for it. The most recently released Australian Early Development Census National Report 2018 confirms what we have known for a long time—that is, the most vulnerable in our community continue to have increased vulnerability across all indicators in that Australian Early Development Census domain. The evidence is that in our region access to services is delayed, interventions are delayed and critical infant brain development time is wasted as infants wait for professional parenting assessments before stable parenting or care arrangements can commence. 

Travelling to metropolitan centres creates considerable hardship and results in many people not seeking the support they need. So much work has been done to progress the plan, including visits to Tweddle Child and Family Health Service in Footscray and the unit in Ballarat. We now have a very clear picture of the sort of service we want to provide and believe it accords with the philosophy behind the parenting services. I would like to point out that at the moment at the unit in Ballarat there is already a mother-baby unit. It was funded some time ago and is up and going. I call on the minister to consider why one regional centre would receive two similar early development centres while another very needy community receives none.

The Andrews government has delivered on a range of projects for Shepparton since I entered this place four years ago. The Goulburn Valley Health redevelopment and the Shepparton education plan are two of the very big-ticket items in our region, but I ask the government to deliver on what is a critical but much smaller area. I would like to quote the Minister for Health: There are so many expectations on new parents these days. It’s why we’re making sure they’re getting the support they need, in the moments they need it most. Minister, Shepparton’s parents and babies arguably need it the most. Will you make sure they get the support they need?

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