Shepparton early childhood and parenting services

August 09, 2018

Question without notice

My question is for the Minister for Health.

Minister, a KPMG report on the establishment of a mother-baby unit in the Shepparton district was commissioned and made available to your department many months ago. Could you please advise what has happened to this report and its recommendations? 

There has been strong advocacy in my community for more than 20 years for the establishment of a mother-baby unit in our district. So much work has been done to progress it with visits to Tweddle Child and Family Health Service and the unit in Ballarat. The evidence is strong in our region that access to this parenting service is needed and that interventions are taking much too long. Given that a report has been completed, I believe people in the Shepparton district deserve to know what is happening.

Ms Hennessy, Minister for Health

I thank the member for Shepparton for her question. The issues that the member canvasses around early childhood and parenting services are important ones. Our government has worked incredibly hard to try and improve the capability of our acute hospital system and also to try and ensure we are better integrating and coordinating community-based parenting services, right from the moment of early pregnancy through to birth, through to early infancy and the delivery of services in early childhood and beyond. I can confirm that the Department of Health and Human Services has received the report that Goulburn Valley Health commissioned in respect of early childhood services. They are currently working through the recommendations that it makes, and I am absolutely happy to offer a briefing to the member and indeed the community advisory committee in respect of the progress that we are making in considering those recommendations.

I would also like to commend the work in respect of the new redevelopment of the Goulburn Valley Health service that is also an important capital development that seeks to address this issue somewhat from the acute end. By that I mean it is about integrating children's and maternity services in the hospital. The member is right to point out that better integrated community-based services, particularly for those who are having challenging experiences, are important, and to that end we will provide an update as to where exactly we are at in considering those recommendations from the KPMG report.

Supplementary question

Minister, we have some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the state and we have very low levels of breastfeeding. We have high levels of disadvantage. Mothers and babies are often required to leave hospital only one or two days after delivery and they often find themselves unsupported and unable to cope. Minister, it has been 20 years that we have been lobbying for this. Will your government now commit to establishing a much-needed, seven-days-a-week residential mother-baby unit in Shepparton?

Ms Hennessy

As I said, the department is currently working through the recommendations made in the report. We are absolutely committed to trying to make sure that we better coordinate the community-based services for both pregnant women and new mothers. I think the evidence of our commitment to that can be seen in investments such as the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program that is running in a number of regional locations, including Shepparton, and is having fantastic results. We have also made a $30 million investment in the Cradle to Kinder program — and again there is a platform to that in Shepparton — which is having fantastic results. I am always up for advocacy and looking at what more we can do. I am very familiar with the wonderful work that places like Tweddle and the Queen Elizabeth Centre do to that end, and that is why we are considering very carefully the recommendations made in the KPMG report.

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