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New birthing program to help First Nations mothers face challenges of early-childhood

Dechlan Brennan -

A birthing program in far-north Queensland is helping to empower local families in the absence of local birthing facilities in the region. 

The 1,000 days program in the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) is designed to mitigate the difficulties faced by mothers when they are separated from community, which can lead to financial, social and psychological challenges. 

Delivered by NPA Family and Community Services (NPAFACS), the 1,000 days program acknowledges the vital importance of the first period of a child’s life, and the challenges to the mother, child, family and community that go with this.

It is designed to help form strong family units to give babies and children a healthy start to life. 

The NPA region comprises the communities of Injinoo, Umagico, Bamaga, New Mapoon, and Seisia, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprising over 80 per cent of the population. 

The program project manager, Ugari Nona, said more than 80 women and men had already shared their experiences. 

“One of the things we do up here is love our children and we strive to build strong families, often against ongoing barriers like enough housing, high unemployment, and cost of living,” Ms Nona said. 

“When we saw the application to be part of the First 1,000 Days initiative, we were really excited as it would give us additional resourcing to ensure mothers, children, dads, and families had someone watching out for them and linking them to resources in those early days from birth to a child’s second birthday.”

She said the 1,000 days program reached out to communities, eventually hearing from more than 60 women and their experiences. This included the contexts that have helped them, and their children thrive, or the challenges and difficulties imposed on them. 

The program then heard from the fathers and the challenges faced by them during the early days of fatherhood.  

These experiences allowed NPAFACS to learn about what was going well for families, from pregnancy to the child’s second birthday, and what could be improved. 

“One of our strongest findings is the importance of sustaining women’s connection to each other during pregnancy and birth, and one of the strongest desires of women is that we may one day be able to birth our babies in the NPA,” Ms Nona said. 

NPAFACS will soon launch a visitor program, where Indigenous health workers from the NPA will be able to visit women and children.

Ms Ugari said these visitors will engage and converse with parents and carers to allow for further learning about developmental milestones and the overall complexities of raising children and every-day life. 

“Families will also be referred and connected to the services they need in a meaningful way,” Ms Nona said.

“We love our children and want them to thrive.

“We believe this has always been a privilege and our dreaming, and this project lets us step into this dreaming in a different way.”

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