Mums in Yarra launched on Facebook last year and now has more than 700 members

Updated April 19 2022 - 7:18am, first published April 13 2022 - 1:31pm
Mums in Yarra members Bec Falconer with Edith, Madlen Toumbourou with Jamila and Hannah Oliver and Hamish. PHOTO Morgan Hancock
Mums in Yarra members Bec Falconer with Edith, Madlen Toumbourou with Jamila and Hannah Oliver and Hamish. PHOTO Morgan Hancock

When Madlen Toumbourou had her first baby coming out of a Melbourne lockdown she quickly realised how important relationships with other mothers and families were going to be.

The First Time Parent Group she had been "connected up with" by Maternal and Child Health services proved to be a godsend - so much so, it led to her forming her own group with other Richmond mums.

"We were there to offer each other advice and normalise experiences," says Toumbourou, whose daughter, Jamila, is now 14 months old.

"And we did things like clothing swaps, food swaps and setting up group activities for the kids."

But with lockdowns and restrictions continuing, the mental health practitioner became aware that many new mothers, then having to meet on Zoom, weren't having the same positive experience.

Inspired by the successful, long-running Mums in Darebin initiative and finding no Yarra equivalent, Toumbourou and her mother's group friend Hannah Oliver decided to establish their own.

Mums in Yarra launched on Facebook in April 2021, and in its first week attracted around 200 members.

Since then, membership of the group, which functions largely online, has grown gradually to more than 700.

Like the parents group Toumbourou first joined, it provides a forum for exchanging things - from breast pumps to puzzle books - and support and advice on topics like key baby milestones and local health professionals.

"It's using that hive mind, or brains trust, to get those recommendations," Toumbourou says.

"A lot of parenthood is trying to figure it out and there's a lot to figure out.

"So if we can lean on each other and use other people's knowledge and experience, then why not, it's going to make our ride smoother."

Importantly, its founders say, the group has a non-judgmental outlook.

An anonymous option allows members to post on issues that might be sensitive in nature.

They could include questions about breastfeeding, getting back into the workforce or whether someone is experiencing post-natal depression, Toumbourou says, and they are always met with a supportive response.

Administrators also monitor member contributions and provide links to services like the free counselling service PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) where appropriate.

Mums in Yarra members also meet in the flesh, with a Wednesday morning "Mums' mental health club" at Serotonin Eatery in Burnley a popular option.

The group is also establishing a pregnancy buddy program.

A big new initiative starting this month is a free series of sessions on "'community wellbeing and play education" run with the Richmond Community Learning Centre.

With funding from Yarra City Council, Toumbourou has recruited local experts for the 10-week child-friendly course, which will mix interactive workshops with educational sessions on the transition to parenthood, parental mental health and play.

For co-founder Hannah Oliver, Mums in Yarra has become an important part of life to which she devotes a lot of time

"And for myself it's amazing, because I don't have family here and my husband's from Scotland as well.

"The local community is our support network, and that's great. It's something you need in the pandemic with a baby."


Jenny Denton


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