TIME is running out for local organisation Zoe Support to secure further funding to continue supporting Sunraysia’s young mothers.
Executive director Anne Webster says the organisation’s board of directors are scheduled to make a decision about the sustainability and viability of the program in June 2018, with current funding due to cease in November.
“The possibility of Zoe closing it’s doors in November is very real,” Ms Webster said, while adding that programs like Zoe, that aim to break the cycle of long-term welfare dependency take time.
“Unfortunately, government can be short-sighted, and can be influenced by political cycles,” Ms Webster said.
“It’s about political expediency and this kind of program that actually breaks long-term welfare dependency takes time.
“Our program is reliant on trust being developed, stability provided and where long-term commitment occurs.
“Twelve months of guaranteed funding at a time is not ideal,” she said.
“I absolutely defend the right of mothers to be able to receive support, regardless of age,” Ms Webster said.
“What people don’t understand is that for many of our mums, the complex issues, difficulties and barriers they face already existed pre-pregnancy.
“Often what we see, is that the pregnancy or birth of their child acts as a catalyst for change.
“Frequently, our young mums will say, ‘I don’t want to raise my child the way I was raised. I want to give them a better future.’
“Who can deny that going back to school, becoming educated, and getting a job is not going to do just that?”
Ms Webster said that through Zoe Support, Mildura has the potential to set the benchmark of how rural cities address the perceived problem of high teen birth rates.
“The fact remains that we are a unique holistic, wrap-around, place-based support for young mothers,” she said.
“As a community service organisation, we are one of the only ones in Australia.
“Most education supports for young mothers are based in schools, and that in itself limits them.
“As a community, we can close our eyes and pretend that teenagers in Mildura will never get pregnant, or we can be realistic and stand by young mums, to provide them with the support they need to create generational change,” she said.
Ms Webster said the work of Zoe is quite purposeful and does not include advocating teen pregnancy.
“Obviously we are not encouraging young girls to go and get pregnant, have a baby and end up on welfare.
“The work of Zoe is to support young mothers, to assist them in becoming educated and ultimately, employed – not to judge them.
“It is not our place as an organisation, to preach anything to anyone. We support our clients in their parenting and education journey, to increase their autonomy, their sense of self-determination, their confidence and connectivity in the community.
Ms Webster spoke of the community misconception that Zoe Support owns four properties in Mildura, calling the claims “quite funny”.
“We don’t own any properties,” Ms Webster said.
“We are on short-term leases because we can’t actually afford to buy anything.”
Ms Webster said the dwellings have been used as bases to provide a variety of services including study hubs, onsite childcare, case management, financial support assistance, nutritional cooking classes, sewing classes and numeracy and literacy courses.
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