Help for parents at the end of the phone line to Gateway Health

POSITIVE PROGRAM: Minister Jenny Mikakos and Gateway Health's Andrea Slattery during the minister's visit to Wodonga. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS
POSITIVE PROGRAM: Minister Jenny Mikakos and Gateway Health's Andrea Slattery during the minister's visit to Wodonga. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS

Having a professional to talk to for advice has made many users of a Gateway Health program better parents.

The positive parenting telephone service, which is conducted with the Wodonga-based organisation, has been a Victorian-first initiative to help regional families unable to leave their home for appointments.

The service started to be offered to North East families 12 months ago and Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos was in Wodonga on Wednesday to announce $171,000 in funding to extend it another 12 months.

“This is a really important program and it’s a unique program in Victoria - it’s the first time my department has funded such a program to really provide more support, particularly to regional parents who mind find it difficult to get into a service like this one,” she said.

“We are really reaching families that due to transport or access issues would otherwise miss out on really valuable parenting education.”

The Victorian government will continue to evaluate the program and consider it in the long term, linking the initiative to other maternal support services.

“The most important thing that a human being can do is be a parent, yet there’s nothing really that prepares people for being a parent - many people get thrown in the deep end,” Ms Mikakos said.

“If you are equipped with the right skills, and importantly confidence in your parenting skills and the interaction you have with your children, you’re going to give them that best start to their lives.”

Father-of-three Matt spoke to the minister over the phone from his farming property, where he also runs a small business, and said the program gave he and his wife more confidence in raising their young children with guidance from someone with real life experience and professional knowledge.

The eight-week program was ideal for their situation, going through the workbooks from home and calling Gateway Health for a weekly chat.

“It was a really good sounding board and out of that, I think we worked better together as well - we’re on the same page,” he said.

“We’ve actually been proud to say (to teachers) that we’ve been through this program, we really want to be proactive.”

Positive parenting telephone service co-ordinator Andrea Slattery said 175 families had already used the service and there was no wait list for others wanting to join up.

She said one client recently told Gateway Health the program saved their family.

“We need to take that as a positive step because sometimes we do save families - they’re calmer, there’s less yelling,” Ms Slattery said.