Prevention programs



Ageing in the growth corridors: building on the HACC service system

Ageing in the Growth Corridors was a two-year Department of Health initiative to build HACC service system capacity in growth areas.

The future system needed to deliver an appropriate mix of rapidly growing HACC services to support the Active Service approach. The initiative targeted the four local government areas in the North West Metropolitan Region growth corridor (Melton, Wyndham, Hume and Whittlesea).

The project structure was designed to facilitate actions informed by local knowledge and experience, quality data and research and a whole of HACC perspective including an Active Service approach.

The project was intended to deliver sustainable HACC service growth and innovation. It aimed to deliver a preventative approach able to help people to maintain their abilities, confidence and independence.

The University of Melbourne provided program research and evaluation practice to inform and support service system planning and innovation. A regional project structure and process was then developed to support collaboration across municipalities.

Baby Makes 3

Family formation is a key time for intervention to prevent violence against women. It is a time of increased risk, as violence can often intensify during pregnancy and in the period following the birth of a child.

As a collaboration between antenatal and postnatal health services, the Baby Makes 3 project provided a significant opportunity to work with men (and women) during their transition to parenthood – a time when issues of gender roles, gender equality and family relationships are relevant and likely to be given proper consideration.

The Baby Makes 3 project was designed to adhere closely to the VicHealth (2007) framework guiding the primary prevention of violence against women, and respond to Action Theme One: Promoting equal and respectful relationships between men and women. The project sought to prevent violence by:

  • Supporting men and women through the transition to parenthood
  • Altering traditional attitudes to gender roles
  • Raising awareness of the importance of maintaining gender equality during family formation
  • Providing practical skills and strategies for maintaining equal and respectful relationships.

To prevent violence against women it is crucial to target men. By targeting first-time fathers, the project not only acknowledged that men have a positive role to play in helping to end violence against women, but also in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of children.

The Baby Makes 3 team was established within the Primary Health Care Program at Whitehorse Community Health Service. A reference group made up of representatives from the partner organisations and other key stakeholders was also established to provide program direction.


Objective 1: To engage men and women attending antenatal clinics, or childbirth education classes in individual, couple or group work to increase their awareness of how attitudes to gender roles and gender equality can influence the health of their relationships and their family’s wellbeing.

Objective 2: To engage men and women attending ‘new parents groups’ at Maternal and Child Health Centres in the City of Whitehorse, in at least two group sessions aimed at promoting equal and respectful relationships during early parenthood.

Objective 3: To engage midwives and Maternal Child Health nurses in partner organisations in professional development workshops to increase skills and understanding of family violence prevention by promoting equal and respectful relationships between men and women during the transition to parenthood.


The project identified outcomes at the individual/family relationship level and the broader organisational level.

For families and individuals, the project saw:

  • Enhanced ability of families to cope with relationship and lifestyle changes, and greater awareness among new parents of how attitudes to traditional gender roles affected relationship equality
  • Increased capacity of families to manage the stresses of family formation
  • Respectful and equitable gender relations
  • Men behaving responsibly, respectfully and in non-violent ways towards their partner
  • Improved skills in non-violent conflict resolution
  • Improved connections to resources and support.

For organisations, the project observed:

  • Greater awareness among health professionals of how attitudes to traditional gender roles can affect relationship equality
  • Increased capacity of services to respond holistically to first-time families
  • Greater collaboration across sectors to address family violence
  • Expanded knowledge as to the effectiveness of family violence prevention programs.

Baseline for young people: City of Whittlesea Youth Services

The work undertaken by the City of Whittlesea Youth Services focuses on all issues that affect young people through the complex transition of childhood to adulthood. Youth Services aims to facilitate the development of individual, family, community and structural factors that enable young people to reach their full potential.

All practices endeavour to be culturally appropriate and inclusive.

Area work

All Youth Development Officers have a geographical area of the municipality that they are responsible for. The overall aim of area work is for the Team to develop in-depth knowledge and connections with designated areas within the municipality. This enables the voice of young people to be heard from a local level and responded to by Council.


Members of the Youth Services Team have issues based portfolios for which they are responsible including:

  • Renewal/growth areas
  • CALD young people
  • Indigenous young people
  • Youth club development
  • Youth participation
  • Family strengthening
  • Young people with disabilities and many more

EDGE Youth Facility

Council’s Youth Services Team is based at Edge. A range of local service providers are also located at Edge with a practicing ethos based on human rights; participatory; social justice; community development and community strengthening activities. Council’s commitment to Edge is that it will continue to evolve as a space for young people to participate in civic engagement action, skills training, personal development programs, recreation, art and cultural activities.

Melbourne Citymission Family & Community Links Model

Melbourne Citymission’s Family & Community Links Model at Hartnett House provides client-focused, place-based services to families with children living in Brunswick and surrounding areas.

The model is based around the universal service provided by the Children’s Centre at Harnett House. However the Family & Community Links Model also incorporates Melbourne Citymission programs for families with a child with a disability or developmental delay.

The Family & Community Links Model has three elements:

  • Core service: A place-based service such as a school or childcare centre. The core in this example is Hartnett House Children’s Centre.
  • Interrelated services: These services are directly linked to and often collocated with the place-based core service but with potential to compliment and extend its range. The interrelated services in this example are the early childhood intervention service and the strengthening parent support program.
  • Innovative responses: Services are based on needs identified by the community or by workers in the core and interrelated services. They are built on a community development model and are often short-term, designed to meet particular needs such as casual child care or to support other initiatives.

When implemented using a community capacity building approach, this basic framework of core and interrelated services and innovative responses can provide the structure for service models in a variety of contexts and with any population group.


The vision for the centre sought to develop a facility that would ‘offer a range of child and family focused services that meet the needs of the local community and reflect a culture of learning and support’. Being part of a broader resurgence of community development was central to this project vision.

The core principles of the establishment Family & Community Links Model are:

  1. Developing services based on the needs of families and in partnership with the community
    The defining feature of the model is the innovative services, which have been developed in response to consultation with the community. It is intended that these initiatives should become self-sustaining while in operation. However they are not expected to last indefinitely, since they respond to specific needs at specific times. 
    Innovative services will be different in different areas due to the varying needs of communities. A sound understanding of local demographics and community needs has therefore been crucial to the development of the model.
  2. Empowering community members for participation in their communities
    The focus of the model for Hartnett House is not just about offering support. It is about empowering people and giving them the confidence and skills to actively participate in their community.
  3. A one-stop shop with a range of services
    Hartnett House is a “one-stop shop” where people from the local community with all abilities, all incomes, all cultures and all faiths can come together in a safe, inclusive, learning environment. The existence of a range of services in one building, with multiple points of entry, is designed to increase opportunities to identify and meet people’s needs and to provide them with opportunities for personal development and social interaction.
  4. Bringing together population and place-based programs and approaches
    The Children’s Centre is a universal, place-based program. ‘Population-based programs’ include Strengthening Parent Support, for parents with children with disabilities, and Parenting in Partnership, for parents with a learning disability. The aim is inclusion for all and a mixing of different groups within the various activities.
  5. Fostering learning
    The emphasis on providing opportunities for learning is apparent in the early documents for the model, such as the Community Development Project Brief, the Steering Committee Terms of Reference, and the Media Release, which all speak of creating a ‘culture of learning’ for children and their parents. Specific opportunities for parents have included English classes. Children’s learning is fostered through their participation in the range of childcare services, including the Early Childhood Intervention Service.

Success Factors

Some of the success factors identified by staff include:

  1. The critical role of Child Care Links
    Child Care Links funding uses a community development model to foster child friendly communities, by improving service coordination and enhancing opportunities in childcare centres for community activities.
  2. Physical space for innovative projects
    For redevelopment to succeed, the existing programs needed to be willing to share or give up space in order to create new opportunities at the centre. Flexibility around space is a prerequisite for success, and an indicator of culture change at Hartnett House.
  3. Staff commitment to joined up working
    A critical factor for success has been having people in management or other influential positions who are committed to the model, especially around staff working together.
  4. Resources for casual childcare
    Casual childcare has had a vital role in enabling parents to participate in innovative programs such as the sewing group and English conversation classes, since they can be reassured that their children are being well cared for on the same premises. The funding of this through Child Care Links has thus been very important to the success of Family & Community Links.
  5. Viable core and interrelated services
    In order to provide stability for the model, the core and interrelated services have needed to be or to become viable. It is also important that the innovative programs become self-sustaining.
  6. Connection with the local population
    Building stronger connections with the local community has been a critical factor for success, particularly because it is linked to the viability of services. Local community members using the Children’s Centre and paying standard fees effectively subsidize the programs provided to more disadvantaged groups, as well as broadening the mix of populations using Hartnett House.
  7. Effective community engagement
    Input from local, state and federal governments and community organisations have led to the identification of particular needs and responses, such as the playgroups. The needs survey with families using the centre helped to identify potential areas for development during the Scoping Project. Ongoing community engagement has occurred through informal conversations between staff and people using the various services at Hartnett House. This has led to the development of new programs (e.g. sewing group; Spanish-speaking playgroup).

Servicing Growing Communities Demonstration Project

The Servicing Growing Communities Demonstration Project was a model of service delivery with a strong focus on early intervention and prevention in the recognition that through better self-management of family problems and increased family resilience, a dramatic reduction in long-term service provision would eventuate.

The specific objectives of the project were to:

  • Identify and implement a process for the active engagement of communities, Southern Metropolitan Region DHS staff and external stakeholders in planning, service developments and practice
  • Design and pilot an innovative family outcomes model for service support across programs to build resilience and increase self-management
  • Increase opportunities for family and community connectedness and engagement
  • Increase community awareness of available prevention and early intervention services
  • Trial the planning framework through the development of an action plan that responds to one or two identified community priorities.
  • Prevention Programs.

Mothers Against Gangs, Harrow UK

An initiative of the Young Foundation, Mothers Against Gangs (MAG) works to empower parents to tackle the serious issues of gang violence. The program seeks to support parents through information, training, awareness, education and recreation. The success of the program has generated interest from a range of stakeholders and agencies.

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Team Approach to Violence, Chicago USA

Social Life ran a series of workshops, investigating the opportunities to use digital technology to help people feel safer in Chicago’s south side.

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Financial Stress in Growth Areas (FIGA)

A Partnership Project with State and Local Governments; Community Organisations; Financial Sector; Community

The Southern Metropolitan Region’s data and service provision indicators from across the partnership indicate that many families in the growth areas of Casey and Cardinia are experiencing financial stress, often for the first time, due to high mortgages, other credit lines and increased costs of travel.

In 2010, the partners identified and explored initaitives to improve the service system response to financial stress through enhancing the existing systems and evolving the capacity of the system. The following Action Plan has been adopted.

Key Priority Area One: Establish a sustainable and effective cross agency governance arrangement

  • Objective 1.1 Develop a multi-disciplined leadership group
  • Objective 1.2 Identify engagement and reporting pathways that will maximise opportunities for success

Key Priority Area Two: Develop and understanding of the existing service sector

  • Objective 2.1 Develop a service mapping system
  • Objective 2.2 Develop an understanding of critical indicators of financial stress

Key Priority Three: Enhance capacity of existing and future workforce

  • Objective 3.1 Identify capacity of existing workforce to respond to financial stress
  • Objective 3.2 Establish process for sustainable sector engagement and action

Key Priority Area Four: Increase community awareness with a focus on prevention

  • Objective 4.1 Establish social change and acceptance of the need to ask for help at the earliest stages.

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Empowering Parents, empowering communities

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute received funding from the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation in September 2011 to implement a pilot of a peer-led parenting program developed by the Centre for Parent and Child Support in South London. This report represents an evaluation of the pilot of Empowering Parents – Empowering Communities (EPEC) in Tasmania. The evaluation involved an analysis of program documentation and consultation with project staff, parent facilitators and parents, observation of training sessions and analysis of a range of feedback tools.

EPEC is a peer led model, in that it involves pairs of trained parent facilitators delivering a program to groups of parents over the course of eight weekly, two and a half hour sessions. EPEC in Tasmania has successfully trained eighteen parent facilitators to deliver Being a Parent courses around the state. Parent facilitators report satisfaction with the skills provided through the EPEC model and early indications are that confidence and self-esteem have improved along with reinforcement of the specialised skills taught in BAP. In fact, there has been a surprising level of personal growth amongst the parent facilitators.

One parent facilitator reports:

You come together as a group, with common ground, with a desire to make a difference. You feel important because you have the knowledge; you can spread the message and do some good. You become an important person in your community. It’s exciting.

Ninety four parents have completed the BAP course in seven communities around Tasmania during the pilot phase of EPEC in Tasmania. The BAP project has demonstrated a high retention rate with 79 per cent of participants completing the course. The data presented in this report demonstrates that BAP has achieved substantial impact on parenting skills of these parents. The content of the course strikes a chord with parents and feedback shows that parents who have undertaken the BAP training report thinking more and listening better. They have embraced the knowledge and tools provided in BAP and report significant improvements in their children’s behaviour.

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The Supported Playgroup and Parent Group Initiative

The Supported Playgroup and Parent Group Initiative (SPPI) supports vulnerable parents in 29 municipalities across Victoria. Its objective is to promote improved health, development and wellbeing outcomes for children, as well as build parent confidence and capacity, while supporting the establishment of social networks. Through participation in a playgroup, run by an early childhood professional, it is expected that parents will observe the modelling of developmentally-appropriate play experiences and parenting practices; and that families will be linked to the services and supports they need, including the maternal and child health (MCH) service and, at the appropriate age, kindergarten programs. The SPPI funds the resources needed to create opportunities for children and to build parental capabilities. Four priority groups are targeted under the initiative, with the aim of supporting families who may need additional support to provide their children with the foundations for a healthy and happy life.

The four key target groups comprise:

  • Indigenous children and their families or carers
  • culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children and their families/carers, with a focus on recently arrived families
  • disadvantaged families with complex needs
  • children and families affected by disability.

The investment in the SPPI, the use of supported playgroups and the target groups all reflect research that the early childhood years, particularly from conception to age 3 years, represent the most important developmental period in a young person’s life. The living environments, nutrition, relationships and activities that children experience in these early years significantly influence their ongoing physical and mental health. This foundation period also affects whether young people are able to complete their education, transition into the workforce and positively participate in community life.

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