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Families First Project Report 2003-2004

Project Officer: Fatema Rashid Hasan


The Families First Project undertaken by the Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association of NSW (Speakout) was the first project of its kind to be implemented in Auburn LGA through an outreach approach in partnership with the Auburn Community Development Network (ACDN).

The Project funded by the Department of Community Services (DoCS) is supporting parents and carers raising children by providing a coordinated network of services focusing on the prevention and early intervention approach. The target group includes families with children from 0-3 years initially and will extend up to 8 years later on. The Families First Project intends to develop and implement models to support families in new release areas covering the suburbs of Auburn, Berala, Lidcombe, Newington, Silverwater, and Regents Park in Auburn LGA by strengthening the connection between communities and families.

Since commencing work in October 2003, the Project Officer has been very active in introducing the Families First Project to various community organisations and relevant service providers in Auburn. These have included Department of Community Services(DoCs), Auburn Council, Auburn Migrant Resource Centre, Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors(STARTTS), Barnardos, Ethnic Child Care Family and Community Services Co-op LTD( ECCFCS), Love and Care Child Care Centre, Australian Centre of Languages (ACL), TAFE South Western Sydney Institute (Outreach Women’s Strategy), Turkish Welfare Association, Bhanin Association, Australian Asian Welfare Association, Berala Uniting Church, Newington Community Centre and other organisations in Auburn LGA.

The set up of the project and bringing it to the implementation stage required a multitude of actions on the part of the Families First project as well as the community organisations who became active participants. Some of the key activities carried out during the reporting period include providing information and referrals to families with children, encouraging communities to connect with families and children to develop a sense of belonging, increasing knowledge on issues relating to child development, health, hygiene, safety and other relevant topics, developing partnerships and links between services and relevant agencies, organising activities that motivate families to come together, developing supportive networks among families and advocating on behalf of families with children

Issues/Concerns Identified through Consultations with Groups, Childcare Workers, and Families in Auburn LGA

Postnatal support for CALD women
· Many young CALD mothers from small and emerging communities, mentioned feeling helpless soon after giving birth. It was already difficult for them settling into their new country, then with the arrival of their new baby and no assistance from service providers, they said they found it extremely difficult to cope.
· With the relatively older mothers, this was an issue too in cases where mothers have other babies under five years old. This was the case with women from Somali background.

Expecting/pregnant mothers
· It was reported that expecting/pregnant women found it extremely difficult to access community health for regular health check ups. In certain cases the wait was a couple of months.

Lack of access to dental health
· Mothers/carers with younger children found it difficult to access dental health.

Difficulties in accessing Child Care
· Lack of transportation was identified as one of the key barriers in getting children from home to child care, particularly with new arrivals. As this is not congenial for a healthy upbringing of the children, it often gives rise to other issues e.g. marital stress, parents abusing children, domestic violence;
· Mothers cannot often attend training programmes or courses due to lack of child care facilities. Therefore some mothers are not aware of the Australian system of rearing children and often act in ways that are against DoCS policies relating to Child Protection;
· Occasional child care is not enough, as parents often need a break particularly when all their children are in the same age group.

Lack of after-school care services
· Parents need after school care to be available for longer hours to match their working hours;
· More vacation care programs encouraging creative development.

Isolated families
· Isolation was also identified as crucial factors for mothers from small and emerging communities.

Ethno-specific information sessions
· Accessing interpreters for organising ethno-specific information sessions have been identified as a barrier in organising culturally and linguistically appropriate sessions. This was usually conducted in partnership with colleagues from other organisations on request.

Future Actions

Based on the feedback provided by the beneficiaries, the experience gained by the service providers and internal discussions held to improve the services the following steps will be carried out in addition to continuing our activities.

· Raise the issues at various interagency. Discussions/ consultations to be held with interested groups and key service providers working in the area on developing appropriate initiatives to overcome the above;
· Establishing a Drop in Centre for mothers and children where they could come any time of the day, watch videos, receive information, and play with children, which will assist them in breaking isolation;
· Organise vacation activities for children and families, i.e, creative activities, arts and crafts, picnic, etc;
· Organise regular health checkups for children.

Issues for Advocacy (Families with Children)

Affordability and accessibility of child-care is a major issue for Auburn families as there is one child-care place available for every 5 children in Auburn. Demand in the LGA is expected to be high as more development occurs and second generation of migrants return to the workforce. Other issues include:
· Council to lobby on behalf of families with children (see Council’s Social Plan);
· Provide more playgrounds particularly in Auburn;
· Need for long day care centre in Berala, Auburn, Homebush Bay West and Regents Park;
· Early childhood centre in Newington/Homebush Bay West;
· Preschool kindergartens needed in Auburn, Lidcombe and Regents Park;
· More child care places for children under 2 years;
· More out-of-school-hours care for 5-12 year olds particularly in Auburn and Newington;
· Occasional care places in Berala, Lidcombe and Homebush Bay West
· Additional family day care carers in Auburn, Newington and Homebush Bay West;
· More support groups and education programmes for families
· Information and resource centre for women;
· Baby change and breast feeding facilities in all public facilities.

Highlights of activities

Establishment of the project

· Flyers were developed and distributed to service providers and at various forums, groups and community centres. Held informal consultations on their need and to get a sense of direction for future programming.
· Stakeholders and Partners were identified through one-to-one consultations and through discussions with relevant stakeholders providing services to families with children, participating at various interagency meetings.

Develop partnerships and links between services and relevant agencies

· Formed Reference Group and organised 5 Reference Group meetings in December 2003 and in February, March, April and May 2004 at ACDN and once at Auburn MRC. These members of the Reference Group include representatives from DoCs, Auburn Migrant Resource Centre, Auburn Community Health, Auburn North Public School, Auburn Community Health, Centrelink, Auburn Council, Love and Care Child Care Centre, Bhanin Association, Ethnic child Care for Community Services Centre (ECCFCS) and ACL.

Launch of Families First Projects

A major high light was the launch initiated by the Families First project of IWSA of Families First Projects in Auburn to celebrate the International Children’s Day 2004 at the launch of families First Funded Projects in Auburn LGA on 1 June 2004 at Auburn town Hall in partnership with Auburn MRC, Auburn North Public School and Auburn Council.

The event was a major success and perhaps one of the first of such kind, which attracted over 400 participants including service providers, families and children ranging from 0-10 years in a single forum. The programme included dance performances, children’s Choir, Congolese Dance, children’s Banner painting and several other child related activities e.g., face painting, mobile play bus facility, etc.

Establishing connection with families and children
· Nearly, 250 Families from various ethnic background including Arabic, Farsi, Dinca, Somali, Chinese, Tamil, Turkish, English speaking, have been identified with children under 3 in the new release areas through links with Auburn Council, Barnardo’s, Burmese Welfare Association, Newington Community Centre, Berala Uniting Church, Love and Care Centre, ACL etc.

· Relevant topics for organising information session were identified through consultation with families from Newington Play Group, Love & Care Centre, Barnardo’s Family Day Carers at Auburn.

Increase their knowledge about matters including child development, health, hygiene and safety
The community development activities included running of information sessions for carers and parents groups on issues relating to child protection from NESB perspective, learning through play, conflict resolution, preparing healthy lunch boxes, services in the area etc. Some of the examples include:

Health Check ups on Demand
A Dental Health Check-up and Information Session
was held at Love and Care Child Care Centre, Auburn on 2nd March 2004. Nearly 35 children had their teeth checked by the Health Nurse.

Play Groups on Demand
A playgroup was established in collaboration with Barnardo’s for children from a multicultural background at Barnardo’s Long Day Care Premises, 20-24 Kerr Pde, and Auburn. The playgroup runs every Monday on a fortnightly basis.

Develop supportive relationships with family and/or friends, in new release areas

Testing Model
The project is also pre-testing and developing a model to benefit families and children from small and emerging communities. The course imparts knowledge and information to participants so that they become better carers on the one hand and on the other the course equips them with the necessary skills to run and operate family day care centres.

Under this model a course on Preparation of Child Studies has been organised in collaboration with TAFE outreach, Granville at Bhanin Association, Auburn. The course is held once a week on Tuesdays over a period of 6 months. Child Care is provided. The Course is expected to help them to become better carers of children with knowledge and information on child safety issues, various services for families and children, child protection regulations, DoCs policies, learning through play, healthy food, First Aid etc. and will equip them with the know how to set up home based family day care centres. At the end of the course the participants would receive a TAFE statement.

Establishing new services
The other major work that the project is involved with at this stage is that it is in the process of strengthening services and establishing new services where required. For example, Auburn LGA has 4000 children within the age group of 4 years; yet, Auburn lacks mobile playgroup facilities, which is important for the early development of a child and assists in breaking isolation of the families from CALD background. Other suburbs have this facility. The project is in the process of establishing a mobile playgroup facility in partnership with SC (UK), ACDN and Auburn Council. It is also trying to improve and establish services through joint initiatives to introduce mobile play bus facility in the area.

During the initial phase of the project a Families First Calendar for the year 2004 was developed by the Project Officer depicting regular ongoing activities undertaken throughout the year, including the dates, venues, timing etc.

Groups organised
• Established contacts with Tongan Mothers Group, Berala, carers and parents involved with Eager Beavers playgroup, Berala, carers/ families at Mums and Bubs club, Regents Park, Turkish mother’s group at Auburn, single parents group at Bhanin Association, Auburn.

The Project Officer also participated in key interagencies, networks, and advisory committees relevant to the Families First Community Development Project in Auburn.