Saturday, 31 May 2008

Becalmed on a Saturday morning

becalmed4, originally uploaded by Baysidemama.

I have to say this is one very serene way to spend a Saturday morning. I snapped this pic along the shores of Port Phillip Bay as the stunning autumn morning light turned the sea a deep pale grey-blue. I think this guy looks like he's fishing but hard to tell!

Monday, 26 May 2008

The Three Wise Men of Bayside Council

When I had my first child, I used to walk past the shell that was once the Black Rock Maternal and Child Health Centre and think about how nice (no, how necessary) it was for us to still have a health centre in the area.

Instead, like all mums in that area at the time, it was a case of getting in the car and driving to a wonderful, but very stretched centre in another suburb because the Kennett Government in its seek and destroy mission to wipe out community services, had deemed this centre as no longer necessary for mums. These were the years when visits to maternal health centres were cut back to a far more fiscally restrained timeline.

Its closure, to me, represented a far wider issue relating to services for mothers and children: how services had been cut back to bare necessities.

Something I had already been reminded of in the major public hospital where I was booted out after the birth - as per standard policy - before I had even learned to breastfeed my child. Sent home with severe mastitis which tooks months of antibiotics to clear up, because my time in hospital was offically over and they didn't really want to know. An irony really when I ended up back there in casualty with the mastitis - was I any less of a strain on the health system there than in staying another night or two in the maternity ward? Which health policy planners came up with the idea anyway that women should leave hospital before breastfeeding has been properly established? No wonder we have such low rates of breastfeeding. But I'm getting off topic - that's another story.

I was reminded again of this dearth of funding for early childhood when it came time to enrol my first child in three year old kinder. Fabulous kinder programs, amazing and dedicated teachers, beautiful facilities, but limited funding meant that compared to many international and even interstate models, our three year olds are not getting the hours they need in an early learning environment. Unless, we pay privately of course.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that I, like many new mums, learned very early that
much more could be done to support the health and wellbeing of new mothers and babies. Something Kevin Rudd has been alluding to recently, with talk of more money being injected into early childhood.

However, in its wisdom, Bayside Council is wanting to go against this hopeful new avenue for early childhood and instead sell this important public asset. I've written about this before and how important this building is. Three Bayside Councillors agree and are against the sale. Stand up and take a bow:

Cr Alex del Porto
James Long
Clifford Hayes

If you're in the area and believe in our maternal health centres, come along to the rally and sausage sizzle:
When: Saturday May 31 from 10.30am - 12 noon
Where: Black Rock Pre-School, 55 Bluff Road, Black Rock

For more information, the campaign to save the centre now has a website:

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Some recent vintage market finds for kids' rooms

I have a serious market addiction (I keep telling myself that at least it's not an addiction to anything bad) and that means most Sunday mornings I find myself at one of Melbourne's fabulous markets. I steer away from Camberwell these days as the prices are high and you never really feel you've found that great bargain find anymore, although it is sometimes worth a wander just to look at some of the amazing wares there. No, my stomping grounds are the more suburban markets. Recently, these are some of my finds for kids' rooms......

Vintage plastic

Vintage plastic collection

Old wooden boat shelves - perfect for display

Amazing vintage children's desk

These aren't vintage but I recently found these great little tin animals and thought they were very sweet

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Parenting then and now: How your mother did it compared to you

I was talking to some friends recently about how many of the choices we have about parenting were just alien concepts a few decades ago. But is everything so much better now? The question has inspired some then and now comparisons of motherhood. Feel free to leave your own comparisons in the comments section......

Billowing maternity smocks in flurid florals
Figure hugging lycra and maternity denim


Feeding them basic mash and meat or a mashed version of whatever the family is eating
Gnocchi, risotto and organic vegies.

Cloth nappies and many, many hours of boiling and washing them
The rise of the organic disposable nappy. Drop them in your bin guilt-free!

Toilet training as soon as possible (often around age one) to get them (and you) out of the dreaded nappy routine
It happens when it happens (to our own parents’ horror) just so long as we get them over the hump before kinder starts.

Regular visits to your maternal health nurse
A tightly pared back health visit schedule thanks to funding cuts

Bottle feeding with sweetened condensed milk for babies
An overwhelming choice: Soy formula, milk with extra omega vitamins, iron-enriched formulas, the list goes on. Then there’s the new range toddler formulas……


Breastfeeding in private
The right to breastfeed anywhere (well, at least in theory)

Leaving work with your first child and often never returning
Mothers who are expected to run two full time jobs – the kids and the paid employment.

Your bouncing bundle of joy sits in the bassinette on the back seat of the car
A car seat for every occasion and circumstance

Friday, 16 May 2008

Greening your pet

Cat in the light, originally uploaded by Baysidemama.

For those Baysidemama readers in Melbourne who happen to read Saturday's Herald Sun, my new green living column is in again tomorrow in the Home mag. This week I'm looking at how to reduce the eco footprint of your pets. You'd be surprised just how much greenhouse gas your average Fido produces each year (although to put it in perspective, it's still a lot less than the average human).......

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Autumn colour from the Dandenong Ranges

For out of town readers, the Dandenong Ranges are about an hour's drive from central Melbourne and are renowned for the incredible forests of gum trees. There are also a lot of exotic plants and these yield an amazing display of colour every autumn......

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Kids clothes sale at Little by Little

3 Day Sale
30% OFF ALL Fred Bare
30% OFF ALL Big & Fiona
30% OFF ALL Crocs
Thursday 15th May, Friday 16th May &
Saturday 17th May
Little by Little
18 Bluff Road Black Rock

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Infant welfare centres and their role in women's lives: An interview with Heather Sheard

Black Rock's historic infant health centre (above). Photo: Courtesy Heather Sheard

The fight to save the site of Black Rock's historic maternal and child health centre is heating up, with Bayside Council giving the local community a couple of weeks to respond to its plans to sell off the site and put the funds towards renovation of council offices.

While in some ways a local issue, the history of the site is part of a national women's history and the amazing role these centres have played in improving child health in this country.

Recently historian and Bayside resident Heather Sheard made contact with me as she'd heard about the plans for the site. Heather Sheard is the author of a history of baby health centres - All the Little Children: The Story of Victoria's Baby Health Centres. Below Heather details the history of this and other centres.

How did you come to write your book?

I’ve always been interested in the buildings – especially those like the one at Black Rock with its bow fronted Art Deco look. A few years ago, I looked for something to read about the Centres and was amazed that I could not find anything when these centres were and are a hive of women’s work.

When I retired I set about writing a history and after noticing time slip easily by, enrolled in a Masters degree at the University of Melbourne to give me deadlines and encouraging supervisors!

Two years ago I was giving a powerpoint presentation to mark the 80th Anniversary of the creation of the Department of Infant Welfare – now Maternal and Child Health, and the CEO of the Victorian Municipal Association suggested that this should be published and that they would fund it. Eighteen months later we have a book called All the Little Children The Story of Victoria’s Baby health Centres.

500 copies were printed and they are apparently almost all sold.

What do you know of the history of the Black Rock centre - for example, when it was built?

World War Two began eight days after the foundation stone for the Black Rock Baby Health Centre was laid by the Sandringham’s Mayor, Fred Yott on the 26th of August 1939.

Fortunately this did not halt the building works and the Mayoress Mrs AJ Steel opened the new centre in November with Sister Ada Bowie in charge. The Sun News Pictorial on November 2nd 1939 led with the headline "Babies by the armful were brought by mothers to the new Baby Health Centre at Black Rock.." and The Age wrote of "Large, light giving windows and well-equipped rooms…".

Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown, Director of Infant Welfare, opened the new Centre and spoke of the importance of Baby Health Centres to the development of the physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of a child's growth.

The Sandringham Historical Society has a baby’s card from the centre for Rosia Boyd, who may have been a member of the famous Boyd family who had houses in both Edward Street Sandringham and Surf Avenue Beaumaris.

Before 1949, funds to build centres had to be raised by the local community, usually by women and the cost of £1750- was an enormous effort on the heels of the Great Depression.

Black Rock’s Baby Health Centre is an iconic structure in the Moderne style with a projecting semi-circular bay window front, floor to ceiling steel framed windows and steel letters proudly proclaiming its name.

The City of Bayside’s Heritage Review lists the Centre as deserving of Heritage Overlay Protection and notes that it is of historical and aesthetic significance. Even more importantly, the Centre is a significant reminder of Bayside’s social and women’s history, being a prominent example of women’s work both as mothers and Baby Health Centre Sisters.

2008 is the seventieth anniversary of the women of Black Rock approaching the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association and the local Sandringham Council to provide infant welfare services to the area.

How significant is it as a site?
It seems to me that its significance is twofold. Firstly because its history encompasses years of work by women and mothers in lobbying, fundraising and mothering as well as the professional work of the Sisters.

Secondly its significance lies in that it is a community resource which belongs to local families and any redevelopment of the site should acknowledge local families’ needs.

You mentioned most of these early centres were created with community funds? What implications does that now have for councils?

Up until the second World War Two, the Sister’s salaries were paid by combined local council and state government funding. Buildings were the responsibility of the local community and invariably meant intensive fund raising along with council contributions. The implications for Council are interesting. I wonder who gave them the land in the first place? Over the years these centres are just assumed I suppose, to ‘belong’ to Council and they may in fact have bought the land in the first place. But many centres have been and are being demolished, so Council ownership is just assumed I think.

At the very least if they end up demolishing the building there should be some record at the site of what was there!

What is its role in the history of women in Victoria?

Baby Health Centres were begun by a small group of women in 1917 during the first World War to attempt to counter the high rates of infant mortality that still occurred throughout Melbourne and country Victoria.

Until 1926, the voluntary groups, the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association and later the Society for the Health of the Women and Children of Victoria ran the centres in church halls, council rooms, RSL halls, CWA rooms, Bush Nursing Hospitals – in fact anything they could get their hands on. Sisters’ salaries were funded by joint Council/State government funding.

Richmond was the first centre and first council to be involved.

The Centres have always attracted very high levels of patronage in Victoria and have become an integral part of local communities. Their history is also that of Victorian families, mothers and Baby Health Centre/Infant Welfare/Maternal and Child Health nurses and outstanding women like Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown, first Director of the Department, 1926-1946 and Sister Muriel Peck, first Assistant Director, 1927-1944.

Are you going to be engaged in the fight to save it?
I would like to be.

What would you like to see happen at the site?
The pressing and complicated issues of family and children’s services are currently being highlighted at the national level. For Council to consider selling a community resource built for families to fund office renovations, is entirely inappropriate and simplistic. How about a state-of-the-art integrated day and occasional child-care, pre-school, playgroup, and maternal and child health centre? Now that would be a new icon!

Heather Sheard is the author of All the Little Children The Story of Victoria’s Baby Health Centres published in 2007 by the Municipal Association of Victoria

You can contact Heather at:

Monday, 5 May 2008

Kids clothing sale this Friday

Baysidemama reader Orla has contacted me about a sale she's having of her children's clothing range this Friday.

Orla runs Romi Clothing and is selling this season's stock (sizes 000-14) this Friday May 9 from 10am - 6pm. Where: 212 Conventry St, South Melbourne. If you'd like more information contact Orla on: 0421 489 890.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Mamas mean business profile: Delia Timms from Find A Babysitter

Many Baysidemama readers have expressed an interest in more articles on women who have set up businesses and advice on how they did it. With that in mind, I plan to run some regular profiles on women who have done just that - the series is called Mamas mean business.

To kick things off, we are profiling
Delia Timms, who, with two very small children at her feet, set up Findababysitter. Based on a simple premise - that parents would appreciate a one stop online site to research nannies and babysitters, the site quickly took off across Australia.

I'll let Delia tell you the rest of her story......

Delia and her two children (above)

Name: Delia Timms

Business: Find A

How did you set up your business, when and where did you get the idea:
The idea was sparked by personal need after the birth of my two children (18 mths apart!). I spent many months on childcare waiting lists and turned to nannies and babysitters for help. I was surprised and disappointed by the cost, time and inefficiency involved in finding a nanny using traditional ways: agencies, classified ads or word-of-mouth. Then in late 2004 I stumbled across an American web-site that introduced parents to babysitters. I realized that this was a great concept and just what I personally needed. I also had a lot of friends with similar childcare needs and knew it would be valuable to a range of parents. My husband took time off from his IT job and together we created the site. We launched Find A Babysitter (FAB) in mid 2005 and it took off around the nation.

I have read you set it up on maternity leave - how did that juggle go?
I began writing my business plan with a 9mth old and 27mth old. I didn’t have any formal maternity leave (I had been working as a locum speech pathologist part-time after my first child was born). So in some ways this was liberating, since I didn’t have a job waiting for me on a set date. But in other ways it was stressful. I was very aware of financial constraints and was careful to research all the business establishment costs. As far as juggling the children with my business start-up – I used some organizational skills, outsourcing and multitasking. I employed a nanny part-time to allow me to work uninterrupted. I have a very supportive husband and his input was crucial (on both the business and the domestic fronts). I also multi-tasked like any experienced mum does. I crammed work into any other spare minutes and hours, I emailed during naptimes, conducted phone calls during PlaySchool, and worked late into the night if needed. (Editor's note: I wonder how many businesses and careers have been built on the strength of the PlaySchool window of opportunity? I'd say a fair few!)

What is it like to run a business and be a mother:
It has been a very rewarding and exciting journey. But at the same time I have had to learn how to balance work and family. Running a business affords you great freedom and flexibility. It gives you the opportunity to work around the children, for which I am very grateful. However the responsibility of working for yourself can also take over if unchecked. The first year or so of the business I was very absorbed in work and would think about it and talk about it endlessly! Over time I have gradually regained a healthy balance and put boundaries on my work hours. This has happened as the business has matured and there are less unexpected events. It has also happened as I have developed my skills and confidence.

How do you balance that (for example what sort of childcare do you use):
Over the years I have been fortunate to have the services of a nanny for two days per week. I really like the 1:1 model of care, the flexibility this gives me (with hours etc) and the affordability (with two kids). This year my daughter has started school and my son has started kinder. This gives me some small chunks of time! I still have a nanny one day per week and I have just started my son one day per week at a community childcare centre.

How did you grow the business:
We launched the site in Melbourne and thought we’d ‘pilot’ it for three months before rolling out to other cities. However the site rapidly took itself off around Australia and within six months we were in every capital city! The growth of the business was driven by demand. Parents were (and still are) desperate for an efficient and affordable way to find nannies and babysitters.

What is a typical working day like:
I love lists and ticking boxes, so I always have an updated list of things to do by my computer. My basic daily work revolves around customer service emails and phone calls, doing marketing & PR, quality control (skimming over babysitter profiles and job postings), business monitoring and planning. With some motivation supplied by the odd cup of tea and tim tam!

How do people use your site - and what does it offer them:
Find A is a web-site that helps parents find babysitters and nannies. It gives parents an affordable efficient way to meet carers. There are three powerful ways to find a FAB carer on our site – parents can email/text carers from the extensive database, parents can post jobs online to attract applicants and the site can send email notifications to parents when new carers join in their area. The site also has lots of additional features that are helpful with the process: My Shortlist (to list your favourites), My Comments (to keep notes conveniently online), Sitter Ratings (like eBay, so parents can share valuable feedback with each other). The site just provides an introduction, then the parents interview and select their own carer. Parents simply pay a one-off fee to join the site. Then parents pay the carers directly. There is no ‘agency’ and no other surcharges or overheads. This keeps the costs down and gives parents the freedom to choose.

What have been the big lessons learned from setting up your own business:
1. Get some professional advice and assistance. You can’t be an expert at everything, so make sure you get professional input with areas of need.

2. Market research is vital. I engaged a business coach with a marketing background to guide me with this. I think this step is the most crucial indicator for a start-up. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your idea is, if you don’t have a definable and significant market then your business will struggle.

3. Sales & Marketing. You really need to invest time &/or money to tell your target market about your product or service. A fantastic product won’t walk out the door or rush off the shelf without any marketing. You don’t need to spend lots of money on marketing. You just need to plan your approach professionally. Finally I discovered that a great business can be built on a shoestring budget if it is pursued with persistence, passion and the right people.

Your advice for other mothers thinking of balancing babies with a business - large or small:
Go for it! There is nothing to lose. To maintain a balance make sure that you schedule time in the week or month for the kids (of course!), yourself (for example exercise, reading, self), your significant others (partner, parents, girlfriends). Don’t let some things get swallowed up by all the other competing priorities. By giving each of these areas fair attention then you’ll be a happier, healthier and wiser person in business.

Thanks Delia for your time. Delia's site again is:

And if you know of someone you think would make a great profile, please let us know at: