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.”

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.”

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.”

Natural resilience

“A culture that will blame government first rather than looking at itself, the result is over regulation. The flip side of that is, if we have as a community, high regard for access to education, social and community health, equity, then that’s something, that’s about human rights to experience a quality of life, we can measure it, we can say definitively this community is better equipped to fill that void from the bottom up than someone else, because they are already functioning at a very high level in all those areas that make us resilient as a society. That’s where I’d like to see us getting to.”


“When I first moved here 18 years ago, I was like the token Aussie in our street. My husband was born in Cyprus although he has lived here all his life. He would work in Cairns and come home on weekends. When he’d come home on Friday, I’d be like... the lady next door made me cookies, they offered me the ute to take rubbish away, shared fruit etc. I lived in a block of units in Cairns and never knew who my neighbours were after 6 months.... When we moved here it was just beautiful. My neighbour, she’s Spanish, I have lived beside her for 18 years, she talks no English, and her daughter says how do you sit there for half an hour and not talk to each other. We communicate somehow and we get the message across. It’s just that, what you were saying about getting to know your neighbours, we do need to know our neighbours.”

Resilience and faith

“One of the most profound recovery experiences I had was after the tsunami that affected Samoa... the Samoan community in Far North Queensland, held a service soon after in one of the churches… and you can imagine the energy that was there and the singing that was going on… the leader of the singing was particularly passionate in everything he did, in the singing and how he directed the choir, and after the service I found out that this man had lost ten family members in the tsunami…after pondering for a while, and it’s an observation made in a number of different recovery contexts... it is controversial in a secular, progressive sort of setting, I think faith and spirituality are highly connected to resilience. I’ve never seen any of our western communities deal with disaster like I was privileged to witness with that Samoan community…I was struck by the absence of blame, no need to look for an external cause or someone to blame… a phenomena that happens all the time in everything we do.”

“We need a scapegoat…its sits uncomfortably in a secular, progressive, professional background, the capacity for faith; people of deep faith, who have a belief in something bigger than themselves... i.e. God... tend to have a level of acceptance in things that gives them resilience.”

“It’s not just a faith issue... It’s the belief that you can survive.... you will get through...You will see your family... there is something greater than you... as long as you have that belief... It’s not necessarily a Christian thing either. One of the teachings of Buddha is the first great truth is that life is difficult... we need to accept that life is difficult. If you accept that you are well on the way to achieving. Is it religious belief or is itself preservation? I spent nine years in Arnhem Land... Where you talk about connectedness... there, everyone is part of a family... when you come there... You get a name... those with white skin; have the difficulty of understanding... if you’re sitting down, and someone who walks in... You all have to shuffle seats; because of the relationships....they give you a name... You belong in that clan; you’re related to a set of people... sometimes you might have to look after somebody else.... “


“With respect to volunteering, it isn’t just a question of how much volunteering, but also how it is spread across the community.... most volunteers are generally in the older age groups. A healthier community would have a more even distribution. A measure of volunteering is important but could be more sophisticated than just a quantum. We need to be more specific around the question of volunteering. The census doesn’t ask what type of organisation you volunteer for. Volunteering could be heavily weighted in certain sections of the community. Can assist with succession planning and skilling people up. ...There could be mentoring of young people in the community to pass on skills and volunteer roles...sometimes in the SES these young people have gone on to different roles, in Police, etc. We don’t have a culture of young people volunteering though...and we need to encourage that.”