Pirili Kay-Thorpe (left), of Byron Bay, with five-month-old James-Yalmree Wearne, BDCSA Youth Housing co-ordinator Neroli Jager, group co-facilitator Katie Thomson, Catherine Brearley with her daughter Chloe Want, and Careena Roberts at the Ballina Community Centre.
Pirili Kay-Thorpe (left), of Byron Bay, with five-month-old James-Yalmree Wearne, BDCSA Youth Housing co-ordinator Neroli Jager, group co-facilitator Katie Thomson, Catherine Brearley with her daughter Chloe Want, and Careena Roberts at the Ballina Community Centre. Doug Eaton

Safe haven for single mums

FOR Careena Roberts, a young single mum with twins born two months premature, Monday morning at the new Young Mums Group in Ballina is a haven - a place to have a meal, share stories and empathise with other mums.

“It's a place where I can relax. It's safe and I don't have to stress all the time,” she said.

“I can chat to other mums and I can actually sit down and have lunch.”

The Ballina District Community Services Association support group was established to fill a growing need, according to Youth Housing case manager Neroli Jager.

“I noticed that many of my clients were young mums. Many had tried to go to regular playgroups, but felt intimidated. The other mums were at a different life stage to them,” Ms Jager explained.

Rather than chatting about renovations and career woes, hot topics of the group included relationship problems and budget concerns.

Next week a financial counsellor will drop in to help the mums - many of whom are at a loss regarding budgeting on a single parent allowance. Other health workers such as midwives and lactation consultants are scheduled to drop in during the coming weeks.

“But mostly it's a social opportunity. There is always someone to lend a hand with the babies and it gives the women a chance to chat, to empathise with each others' situations,” Ms Jager said.

While only a handful of women attended the first group, facilitators expected the group to take off through word of mouth.

Group co-facilitator Katie Thomson, who had established the Soul Parents group for the Ballina and Byron shires, said the Northern Rivers area had some of the highest rates of single motherhood in low socio-economic situations in the State.

Ms Thompson said the group was even more important to young mums, many whom lived in flats or situations that weren't conducive to hosting mothers' groups.

But being a mum wasn't all bad, according to Catherine Brearley, mother of four-month-old Chloe Want.

“I think if I didn't have a baby I'd still be running around drinking. Being a mum really makes you responsible. It makes you step up,” Ms Brearley said.

Because many other young women do not have a driver's licence or cars, a transport service has been organised.

The Young Mums Group is open to mums from all backgrounds, aged 16 to 24. The group is held from 10am to 1pm at the Community Centre attached to the Bunjum Aboriginal Co-operative. Lunch and transport provided. For more information ring BDCSA on 6686 7776.



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