Community led maternity model


 “…at the hospital in Mareeba…they have set up a maternity unit run by the midwives themselves… each pregnant lady goes in and gets assigned a midwife…the midwife takes them through all the checkups and up to the baby being born; there is no involvement with doctors unless it becomes a serious issue (complications). They created it like that because they couldn’t get enough doctors at the hospital to manage the maternity ward. They said it’s not safe to have babies at this hospital because there is no doctor here. The midwives said …what a load of rubbish, we deliver the babies most of the time anyhow. They developed a model that’s basically… the midwives have taken responsibility for the maternity ward. You must be low risk, if you are a high risk patient you have to go to Cairns. I had both my kids there and it was fabulous. I had one; it was before the doctor thing. I only had a midwife. No doctor. You can have your first baby there, you have to go through all your checks, the doctors in the area, will refer you to the hospital early on so that you start developing a relationship with the midwives. You are having regular checks and if at any stage along the way they think there may be an issue, they will send you somewhere else to get a checkup”.

Action on homelessness

“The community decided there was an issue with homelessness in Mareeba. They went and got involved with Bendigo Bank under the community chest or whatever it’s called and they funded a report for this group. They got Department of Communities and other people involved…got the report up. Basically, what the government has done is start a street to home project. They were going to offer one to a rural community in Queensland to fund a two year pilot project. A lot of people were interested in hosting it across the state. Because Mareeba already had all the networks in place, had built relationships, had a report generated and had done all the legwork, they just said…why start off in a community where they have to go and get that to happen first. Basically the funding is coming here. It’s $1.5 million which starts next month on the 1st September”

… it actually came from the business owners; because what they were saying was that there were a lot of people on the streets…a very high focus on Indigenous people lying around the streets. People were saying that, they were coming down from the Cape to drink. So to find out what was really happening,  QITE(Quality Innovation and Training Employment)… one of their workers (an Indigenous community worker) went out voluntarily and went into homes and asked where people were from, how many people were in each house … he went out and collected all this data and came back. What they actually found is that there is no evidence that people are coming down here to drink. That rumour has been quashed. What they actually found is that it is not really homelessness but the overcrowding of properties. That was brought up in the report. We were still able to get the funding on that basis. Now the Department of Communities have a new level, called level C which actually is for overcrowding or couch surfing.

But it originally did come from the business owners…a lot of vandalism happening in the town, things smashed, graffiti… a meeting was instigated by them and we all came together. The first meeting there must have been 12 people come… Police, health, but not many business owners...again it came back to the community groups, organisations to start putting it together, that’s when we put together a working group and that is the Mareeba homelessness reference group which is still operating.”

Beyond the call of duty

“Where workers were cut off in Gracemere, people did what was required, not what was in their service agreements. They talked to the department and delivered service in whatever way they could. That was true for a lot of organizations.”

“I think someone was talking before about how it didn’t matter how well planned things are, the character of human beings is that when the chips are down you do respond. That certainly happened here… there were not many services who did not deliver over and beyond their normal service contracts. Regardless of where their staff were or whatever…crisis precipitating change but not sustaining it.”

“That happened across the board with non-government and government services. They did what needed to be done.”

Community Leadership

“My daughter was diagnosed with autism at three, Aspergers/autism at the time, by a GP and numerous other professionals. She then developed epilepsy and fibromatosis and it ignited my passion and panic because there was no doctor, my pediatrician knew very little, and he sent me to Brisbane for assessment, and I thought, what am I supposed to do, no one knows anything about it. I started researching and found lots of other families in the area. My pediatrician started referring people to me because I knew the most. Set up some support groups which didn’t work so well, but that is why I set up youth consumer advisory group. At the time in mental health they had the CAG groups, because of the lack of trained professionals here, we had to go to CYMHs for support, so we got together and started YCAG. Part of that was that we needed information and we needed to educate every part of the community including the doctors. My pediatrician was with me, and I did a lot of catering, I had the director of Queensland Health, Department of Communities on board, and as I was delivering catering, I would say, can you give me $1,000 to go towards this… etc. I had a track record of advocating, they knew me. The other thing I did was a sibling carer camp. I got $1,000 from each department for sibling and carers. They are big sufferers in families and there is nothing for them. My doctor gave me credibility to put on a dinner for the doctors, they all came, as did the head nurses, and pediatrician, we fed them. Tony Attwood did a special presentation at doctor level, then I did a teacher one, and coupled that with tony for the education system. They had bad attitudes in Education, and they made it mandatory for teachers to attend. I also got Steven Moore to do a medication one so that teachers and parents understood medication. Then we did one for carers and then actual kids and young teens. Then we put it on again through YCAG…500 attended one out at the university, then the Uni got onboard and we did another one.”

“That’s fantastic because when we moved up here, 4 and a half years ago, where we came from, my son was named as following other boys, he was introverted, and had tics etc… he was very anxious, no one understood or wanted to take it further, when we come here, the school jumped onto it, it was the teachers who recognised it, and followed through, got him a referral to a pediatrician and now his life has just come through so much now. Thank you so much”

Community owned

“…the history of the community and the ties in the community; networks, relationships between people are really important…friends and family; many people here have someone who is related to them locally. A lot of the older people in the community, older families, have built a lot of the infrastructure themselves. A good example of that is the AMP society which owns the show grounds, the Race Club owns the aged care facility Allura, and the family support centre is owned by the community, and so is the kindergarten. A need was seen, and so someone went for it.”

Economic diversity

“The tobacco industry probably is a really good example; there was not a lot of support for the farmers. In comparison to the sugar industry where the government put in a lot of funding to help them transition. In tobacco it wasn’t really there, it was up to the farmers to look at what they were going to do. They relied on their networks to figure out what they were going to do to discuss options. There was one gentleman who thought he would grow parsley, because all the butchers use parsley to decorate their meat. Worked well until the butchers decided to use fake parsley. His niche market disappeared. Another one went into being a worm farm. I think that the tobacco demise was probably the first real push this area had on relying on one specific industry. A lot of farmers have a few different crops going at once, not just one. The biggest lesson that everyone learnt. The other a few years ago was that Golden Circle was going to come through. Everyone put pineapples in and then the cannery didn’t end up coming. People were left with lots of pineapples.

…They got together and decided who was going to trial what crop. He tried to hold back the growers from all just planting the same crops. That networks and leaders in those groups who said let’s try this in a paddock and not wreck the season…there is a constant battle to stop people planting whatever is the most pricey crop as that then drives the price down.

When you have lost your major industry, what was it… sixty million dollars a year coming into the area, is just gone. And people never thought it was really going to go. I think they knew eventually it would but it was pretty much, no more now, see you later sort of thing, you are right the stigma attached to it, why are you growing tobacco, it kills people.”

Faith and Values

“Another perspective, in the generation I was brought up in, one of the most important faiths engendered in me by my parents was a faith in myself, and a capacity to deal with whatever was brought before me…to build skills and experience to deal with things. You will make mistakes but get over it and move on. I think that builds resilience in people. Nothing about a cultural belief or formal religion, but the way your parents brought you up. If you believe in yourself you are more self reliant.”

“Some of that faith element or spirituality is a counter balance to consumerism in society… because we do… the idea that possession… I define myself by what I own, my big house, flat screen TV, big car… whatever it might be, boat …and when all that goes because of the disaster, what are you left with? The faith is something that you can carry with you regardless of what…faith in self or faith in something bigger than you are…”


“…we were dealing with a real crisis in a family who were getting no money from the government at that point… we gave them Emergency Relief in the form of food… when we talked to them…the father… who had a second family, said that he really appreciated the two weeks that he got to spend with his boys when they were flooded in…they played cricket, and heaps of other ‘hands on’ things…he said that usually he is working over that period on the land, and doesn’t have time… he said that he would in future always set that time aside to spend with his kids…”

Informal space and reasons to meet

“…two practical things, one is to have good meeting places, and the other is to have reasons to connect. It might be for bushfires, it might be Christmas in July, and it might be something because we want to go to a session at the pub to watch a band. It’s a way of people coming together. Most importantly it helps develop relationships, which are most important to develop caring. It is more likely that you will care about someone that you know. Could be the pub, the bench seat outside the shops for men while their wives are shopping, it could be the community hall or the local pub, and it could be the square between two government buildings. A space whether a building or outdoors, that’s something we have lost over time is congregating in communities. Shopping centres have taken that away. Where you sit on the bench and read the paper and you chat to people who come along”

Local led disaster plan

“In Ravenshoe they have taken the framework of a community plan, and developed a community response. They have had to develop resilience because of where they are geographically placed. Not just from cyclone, it is drought, flooding, and economic base. It’s about being able to move and change. Do we build resilience out of hardship, is it a result of hardship... many of the factors are related to hardship....what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or you get out!
The coordinated action of some 25 individuals, representing so many different agencies, attending an unplanned disaster meeting at the police coordination centre. To focus on the three stages, planning, cyclone and recovery stage, we knew what to expect.... Did people attend as part of their role or as community members. A mix of both. Vulnerable people attended too. The RSL has 25 members... they took it upon themselves to find out where all their members are. If they need assistance or need to be moved, they knew what had to be done.
What the focus in those meetings was the recovery stage, not planning or cyclone stage. A lot of those questions could be dealt with afterwards. The planning of what was coming was more organised, which helped in the response.
They showed leadership, flexibility, checked on vulnerable people, using their social network and community groups and organisations, helped them to get through, working together, being self reliant, and not having an expectation of government help, awareness of the risk and the environment in which they were operating. They prepared for the worse.
At the meeting, there was recognition that we will lose power, infrastructure, etc... What are we going to put in place now for when that does happen? There were people on the street who wanted to lend a hand, because it was coordinated, they knew where to send them, and what they could do to help... had one purpose in mind.
Everybody knew what the priorities were.”