Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has – Margaret Mead.
Natural Parenting Melbourne first sprang to life in the hearts and minds of a few passionate parents during late 2003. Being personally committed to the “natural parenting” of our own children, we each had felt an increasing need within our own families and the greater Melbourne community for a support network that nurtured the instinctive and yet individual way each family cared for their children.
We envisioned an organisation that respected and celebrated the diversity of parenting, health and lifestyle choices that were available to families – a service that did away with the terms “mainstream” and “alternative” and provided friendly, open and unconditional support for all parents seeking choice in relation to the decisions they made for themselves and their children.
After many hours of brainstorming our ideas, the vision that resulted was one of a network that forged a connection between parents, professionals and organisations that were interested in fostering the growth and expansion of services for families seeking “natural choices” within Melbourne.
We hoped that by nurturing a link between parents and the services/resources on offer to them, we could more readily ensure that supported, informed choice was an option for those families seeking it. At the highest level we aimed to create an organisation that inspired and nurtured a sense of “community support and acceptance” for all children, parents and their extended families.
Forging the Network
After several months of careful plotting and planning (thank goodness for email!) we found ourselves in February 2004, finally ready to “birth” the first instalment of our vision for NPM.
With the outstanding support and generosity of others, we put our very best “novice” web building skills to work and launched the Natural Parenting Melbourne website. A week later, we were very proud and excited to open the doors of our 3 new local community playgroups to Natural Parenting families living within Melbourne.
As the “roots” of our organisation, our playgroups offer families a chance to gather weekly to share, learn and celebrate what natural parenting had to offer. Once a month, each group hosts a guest speaker. Covering a broad array of natural parenting related topics; these talks provide our families with new ideas and the opportunity to learn more about the resources on offer within their local communities.
Being such a new organisation, we had prepared ourselves for a slow start – however within weeks of announcing the first of our playgroups, we were inundated with calls from families and professionals wanting to know more about us and offering their support to the expansion of the network into other areas across Melbourne. The interest in our vision was awe inspiring during those first few months especially. Over and over again we heard the same excited call cries down the phone line “Where have you been?” and “I thought I was the only one that parented in this way”
It was so wonderful to finally have the means to connect so many loving and likeminded parents together – esp. those who had previously experienced such isolating and contrasting examples of parenting from their peers and family.
Six weeks after our launch, we held our first Central City Meet for Natural Parenting families from all across Melbourne at CERES Community Environment Park in Brunswick. Two weeks later, we added a further 3 new playgroups to our network based on connections we had made at the City Meet and within our existing playgroups. Our network now included 6 local community groups across Metropolitan Melbourne.
In April 2004, Natural Parenting Melbourne became an Incorporated Association as we began to start concreting our intentions of pursuing government grants to access the financial backing we would need to keep turning our dreams into realities.
During May and June 2004, our website experienced some wonderful new improvements, the most significant being the addition of our Resource Directory – an online directory of natural parenting resources and services offered within Melbourne. As the physical manifestation of the network we have begun to build – this directory is growing every day and will be published in the form of a handbook in early 2005.
In July 2004, we started our seventh local community playgroup and have several others waiting in the wings for their chance to be launched in the next few months.
Natural Parenting Melbourne into the Future
In the six short months since NPM’s inception, our membership has grown to include many families, professionals and organisations keen to support our vision and become part of the Natural Parenting Melbourne network. It has been very exciting for all of us involved to bear witness to such a successful example of community building at its best.
As the NPM network continues to grow over the latter half of 2004 and beyond, we look forward to expanding our activities to include many more playgroups, a central resource library for our members and furthering our role in community education.
For more information about Natural Parenting Melbourne, please contact Melinda Whyman on 03 9756 0464.
Things to Consider when Establishing a New Group
- Clearly define the type of group you want to create right from the start and ensure that this is communicated in your advertising.
- Ensure your group is covered by appropriate insurances. Most public venues will not hire their spaces to uninsured groups, so it is worth researching this aspect of your group right from the beginning.
- Consider sharing the co-ordination of your group with another person/s to offer yourself support and backup in case of other family responsibilities arising e.g. a sick child.
- When choosing a venue for your group, it is wise to consider the age range of the babies/children attending in order to find the place that will be most comfortable, safe and relaxing for all those who attend. Features such as a sandpit, secure fencing and a grassed area for active toddlers to run free upon can be very comforting for parents who wish to be able to sit back and relax at playgroup without having to constantly worry about the safety of their children. In many instances the most ideal venues for playgroups will be places that already cater to small children’s needs such as occasional care centres, kindergartens/preschools and community centres.
- To ensure your group’s longevity, it is essential to determine your financial budget from the very beginning and set your group fees to cover your expenses accordingly.
- Communicate openly and honestly with your playgroup families about sharing the workload of your group when it comes to packing away toys and cleaning up at the end. Remember many hands make light work!
- When considering activities for your group, be sure to choose things that encourage the participation and enjoyment of all those in attendance. Often the simple things such as singing can be the most successful and happiest moments of the session.
- Most importantly – keep a focus on having fun!