Expecting mothers in Robinvale receive pre and post-natal support 

A unique Our Place program, Baby College, is supporting expecting mothers in Robinvale in their third trimester of pregnancy to receive high quality, wrap-around support.  

Robinvale, on the bank of the Murray River in north western Victoria, is connected by a bridge to Euston in New South Wales. Robinvale reflects an area characterised by diverse multiculturalism, high medical needs for the mothers, families with no Medicare and or current visas.   

Baby College supports vulnerable mothers for 12 months during prenatal and early postnatal periods to improve their child’s developmental outcomes. Mothers who are experiencing vulnerability in Robinvale often do so due to social isolation and language barriers, which can prevent families from being able to access local services. 

Focusing on early engagement and prevention, Baby College is designed to connect parents with support from late pregnancy through to early parenting. Facilitators with early childhood and parenting expertise support the building of strong parent-child relationships through delivery of a flexible evidenced-based curriculum that is family-centred. Families receive access to regular support in a weekly group setting and can begin the program from their 3rd trimester of pregnancy to when their child is approximately 9 months of age. 

As the role of the glue, an initial analysis of need was undertaken in 2019 by Our Place Robinvale and Our Place’s Senior Early Years Advisor to determine if the community of Robinvale would benefit from access to Baby College. This analysis investigated current services and supports and their existing participation rates, coupled with the perceived level of need for such a program based on current birth rates. It also included known issues confronting vulnerable mothers and the capacity of resourcing to support such a program.  

Findings from the analysis indicated that the Robinvale community would benefit from Baby College. This was due to several factors found during the analysis that included but were not limited to, no formal post-natal support groups operating at the time, increased birth rates, geographic isolation and delays in first-time mother’s groups commencing due to requirements around adequate participant numbers.   

It was also concluded that having Baby College available to mothers regardless of whether this was their first pregnancy or not, would deeply benefit them in their role as a parent and meet an existing service gap. Our Place then presented this analysis to the Robinvale partnership group and asked for them to consider Baby college as a priority action in 2020. The partnership group seeing the value in Baby College agreed to work collaboratively toward its implementation.  

Although Baby College was delayed in commencing due to COVID restrictions, it did begin with a rolling intake in September 2020 with these families due to graduate in December 2021. Referrals to the program have come from site partners including the Maternal Child Health nurse and Robinvale District Health Services programs such as midwifery and early years. Families have also self-referred to the program after hearing about the support available through word of mouth. Since commencement, new families have been added into the program as the need arose and some of these families will continue into 2022.  

High-quality Early Learning is one of the five evidenced-based Elements that are central to the Our Place approach.  Our Place supports early learning from birth as well as playgroups, child health and parenting support on site. The key features of this element are:  

  • Early engagement and intervention  
  • High-quality early learning services and supports  
  • Positive home learning environments.