By Cam Lucadou-Wells
First-time mothers say they have been needlessly isolated after the cancellation of mother group meetings by Greater Dandenong Council due to Covid-19.
They have questioned why the council did not offer to host the meetings on online social platforms.
Danielle Matulis, of Keysborough, said the support should have been maintained online as an “essential service”.
As a first-time mum, Ms Matulis had been unable to visit or be visited by family and friends for nearly two months.
“You don’t have the support network that you’d normally have, so I was highly reliant on that support network of mums.
“I’m a resilient person, we have managed – it’s more the fear that the services I relied on weren’t going to be there.”
In desperation, she posted on Facebook asking if other parents wanted to meet with her and her two-month daughter in her local park.
Seven of them met, and they’ll meet again the following week, Ms Matulis said.
“It’s very important to meet others having the exact same experience.
“One of the mothers was talking about suffering a bit of post-natal depression – talking to other mothers was helpful for her.”
Keysborough second-time mother Meaghan Mack agreed.
“Just having that contact with other mums – we’re still in touch two-and-a-half years later.
“It’s especially good for families who are new to the area. It’s great way to meet other families.”
Councillor Matthew Kirwan said the council needed to “learn to do things differently” during Covid-19.
“The new estates of Keysborough are a particularly concentrated part of the municipality where they are a large amount of young parents comfortable with technology.
“Mother’s groups are vital in providing peer support for new mothers and reducing social isolation so not providing an online option is not acceptable.”
Greater Dandenong community services director Martin Fidler said the “overwhelming majority” of families were not interested in online meetings after the First Time Parent sessions were cancelled in March.
“Families were asked if they would be interested in attending meetings online and the overwhelming majority declined.
“As a result, Council did not investigate delivering the meetings online any further.”
Mr Fidler said the council tried to contact all families on the First Time Parent list.
They were advised that its Maternal and Child Health Service was still operating, and available for questions and support.
As restrictions ease, the council was “putting protocols and procedures in place” to reopen First Time Parent groups this month.
“Council is not rushing this process as the health and wellbeing of its clients and staff are its number one priority.
“Council hopes the groups will recommence later this month.”
The groups will be subject to 1.5 metre social distancing and provided with hand sanitiser, he said.