Providing safe and supportive accommodation for mothers and their babies in South Australia
For mothers living in remote communities, becoming pregnant and creating a safe space for a new baby can be a stressful time. They may have to travel to big towns to give birth to their babies, separating them from their families and support networks. Safe and secure housing in regional centres often remains out of reach and, when women are also experiencing complex challenges around family violence or child protection, things can become overwhelming.
In the South Australian region of Ceduna, some families find themselves facing these challenges. These families want the best for their children, but are dealing with a combination of difficulties. A disproportionate amount of these families are Aboriginal.
That's why, in early 2017, Save the Children – with the support of local health and community agencies – opened a new supported accommodation service for pregnant women or mothers with newborns and young infants in the Ceduna area.
Why caring for mothers and babies is so important
Across Australia, progress towards closing the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is stalling and, in some cases, going backwards. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children are dying at three times the rate of other Australian children1 .
Additionally, when new parents don’t receive the support they need to care for newborns and young children at home, it can negatively impact those children for the rest of their life. Investment in those early years – particularly in the first 1000 days of life – is the best way to improve disadvantage in the long term.
Giving new parents the supportive environment they need to bring their children into the world, and care for them in the critical early days, can actually change the health outcomes for both children and mothers, and impact life decisions made by young families as they embark on the journey of parenthood.
Save the Children’s Supported Accommodation program
Located in a quiet area of Ceduna, our accommodation is fully furnished, with a shared kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities. It's a safe place for expecting and new mothers and their families, and gives them access to the support and services they need during this time.
Families can receive practical support with meal planning, hygiene, washing clothes and other household tasks. They can get help with sleeping, feeding, care and attachment. And they can access information on parenting programs and become more aware about the importance of early childhood development.
We also address barriers faced by some new parents, such as inadequate housing or money issues. And we coordinate local services to deliver professional healthcare, parenting support, early childhood and broader family support services to families with young children in the area.
How we know we're making a difference
Last year – our first year of operation – we cared for women who were either pregnant or had young children facing complex challenges. The majority of women we supported were under 25 and were experiencing family violence issues. These women stayed with us for up to eight months, gaining the confidence and skills to care for and support their children.
We were able to refer the women to services that support their children’s wellbeing, help them protect themselves and build a stronger future. In the last 12 months, we’ve received 12 referrals, reinforcing the value of this program.
Our intimate accommodation has been full to capacity, with increasing demand from the local community as word spreads and as women and families learn there is somewhere they can turn to for support.
1RANZCOG National Women’s Health Summit, 2 March 2018, Patricia Turner, CEO NACCHO Keynote address “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Health”
Banner image: Tim Standing/Save the Children