Adjournment: My adjournment is for the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is that he allocates funding from the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund for an early parenting centre in Shepparton. It was clear from the Victorian state budget 2021–22 last week that the $6.25 million in funding required for the mother-baby unit, which we now call the early parenting centre, was not included as a line item. However, I am hopeful that because the budget did allocate an additional $20 million to the existing Regional Health Infrastructure Fund the Minister for Health will generously consider funding this essential service of an early parenting centre for Shepparton from that fund. Such services offer enormous benefits to metropolitan families, and to establish such a centre in Shepparton would give regional families the support they need without travelling to Melbourne for services during the most critical early weeks and months of a child’s life. We urgently need this centre to offer new parents access to paediatric and mental health support, maternal and child health nurses, early parenting practitioners, family therapists, social workers and lactation consultants.
In October 2020 the government awarded $123 million for new early parenting centres in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Frankston, Casey, Wyndham and Whittlesea, but not Shepparton. The centres provide critical support for parents who need advice and support in caring for their babies. From many of our hospitals mothers are discharged within two days of giving birth, leaving them without the support that they need around breastfeeding or alternative feeding arrangements and establishing their baby’s sleeping and settling patterns. A residential support unit helps new parents tackle these issues before they go home, reducing stress on parents and infants.
Shepparton has a high rate of teenage births, a poor breastfeeding rate and many emotional and behavioural difficulties at school-entry level. This service would help our new parents give their children the best start in life. We have worked hard in advocating for this service, and the Goulburn Valley Health Foundation has $1.5 million in its fund to contribute towards the building of this much-needed facility.