New mothers in the New South Wales’ Tweed Shire now have access to a free assistance program.
The volunteer-based program known as Support for New Mums offers a free home visiting service that supports the health and wellbeing of mums in the last trimester of pregnancy as well as in the first year of their baby’s life.
The program helps women who have young babies with a range of needs, including babysitting, financial aid and general advice.
Support for New Mums program coordinator and mother herself, Deb Hunt, started the program in her hometown of Murwillumbah in 2018.
“I’ve raised three children on my own and I realised how little support there was in my area,” Ms Hunt said.
Ms Hunt said most mums were “excited” to get the opportunity to have some time to themselves.
Ms Hunt has a Masters’ degree in early childhood education herself and continues to work in the industry today.
“I work in Brisbane and Tweed Heads, but I’ve always loved Murwillumbah,” she said.
“So, I wanted to give back to the community and help where I could.”
The program gained popularity with local mums of the Tweed Shire quickly and has since spread to more suburbs including Casuarina and Banora Point.
“I’ve worked in the industry for over 25 years and I know how crucial those first five years of a baby’s life are,” she said.
The Support for New Mums program has 20 volunteers, most of whom have nursing or early childhood experience.
“Even if it’s to have a cup of tea with them or look after the baby so they can have a shower, [we do] anything to help them,” she said.
Ms Hunt advertises the program via social media, such as the Kingscliff Happenings group on Facebook.
“Since my first few posts, I’ve had so many lovely people reach out to me and offer their help,” she said.
Ms Hunt said they were currently seeking expressions of interest from potential volunteers.
“Most people [who volunteer with the program] have kids of their own or used to work in nursing, so they know what they’re doing, but I just want to make sure they look out for red flags for abuse and important things like that,” she said.
Thirty-four-year-old Murwillumbah single mum, Hannah Van de Werff, chose to take advantage of the New Mums program.
“It was really nice having someone to go to who used to be a mum, I was able to ask all the real questions I wanted to ask in a welcoming environment,” Ms Van de Werff said.
Ms Van de Werff, who has family in Sydney and Brisbane, recently moved to the area and was largely on her own when she gave birth to her baby boy, Tyler, 15 months ago.
“Having a volunteer there for even an hour once a week, gave me the chance to go out and see my counsellor or GP, to get the help that I needed also,” she said.
Ms Hunt said she adhered to COVID-19 restrictions prior to meeting with any families to ensure she was not putting anyone at risk.
“We left it up to them whether they were fine with us coming over but, we’ve still been pretty consistent and even took on more clients throughout this whole ordeal,” she said.
Ms Hunt said the Support for New Mums service was particularly good for women with FIFO partners who hadn’t been able to return home due to COVID-19 border closures.
“Some partners have been stuck away from home, so the mother is sometimes left with several children to care for and no extra help,” she said.
Ms Hunt said the program had received a lot of positive feedback, which led it to win a grant from the inGrained Foundation.
The inGrained Foundation is a national organisation that supports Australian environmental and social charities and aims to provide streams of reliable funding from their partners, which includes Stone & Wood Brewing Company.
The $10,000 grant allowed Ms Hunt to prepare for launching the support group on a larger scale once COVID-19 settles down.
The funds will be used to pay for venues to train volunteers, Facebook ads, work phones and much more.
Ms Hunt said it has also already been put towards “mum and bub swimming lessons” for two mums.
Ms Hunt initially started the program for first time mums but has since made it available for mums who have just given birth, whether they already have children or not.
“My daughter just had her third child and said her first two were fine but this one is the difficult one, so she has really appreciated the helping hand,” Ms Hunt said.
At the moment, volunteers are just assisting in the Tweed Shire region, although the program could go further up the Gold Coast once the border reopens.
For more information about Support for New Mums visit their Facebook page.