Baby boom for Colac Otway Shire

Baby Sage Freeman-Evans image 2.jpg

Colac Otway Shire’s birth notices have risen in the financial year 2021-22, up 14.3% on the previous year, with families in the region welcoming 239 babies.

The largest percentage increase in birth notifications received was from the Wye River, Separation Creek, Apollo Bay to Johanna region, with 31 babies taking the area total up 55% on the previous year, while Birregurra experienced a decline in birth notices, down from 17 to 8 this financial year. There have also been 12 birth notices from the Cororooke area, up from eight in the previous financial year.

“Our Maternal and Child Health team has done a wonderful job in what has been challenging circumstances with the changing COVID restrictions,” said chief executive officer Anne Howard. “They have been a steadying presence in families’ lives when other factors have been less reliable.”

Ms Howard said it was unknown at this stage whether the increase in birth notifications for 2021-22 was a one-off occurrence, or whether it was the start of an upward trend.

“We know that during COVID many families migrated from the city out to regional areas looking for more space and freedom for their children,” said Ms Howard. “Colac Otway is a wonderful place to raise a family and it’s encouraging to see that more people are looking at our area of the world as an attractive place to live and work.”

Colac Otway Shire Council has regular Maternal and Child Health clinics in Colac, Apollo Bay, Cororooke and Birregurra, with its nurses recording 84 first-time mothers this financial year and 184 immunisations given during the period.

Colac Otway’s Maternal and Child Health team typically achieves high rates of ongoing participation in Key Ages and Stages (KAS) visits and 2021-22 was no exception, despite the workforce challenges with COVID.

“The community has been really understanding about the need to sometimes move and change appointments, but we have been able to maintain a high participation rate with over 90% of infants 0 – 4 months receiving their Key Ages and Stages visits and over 80% for children 4 – 18 months,” said Ms Howard.

Council also provided over 400 hours of additional consults and over 1000 counselling consults, helping families with nutritional, developmental and illness concerns. Overall participation rate at Council’s clinics (the number of children who have attended at least once in the year), was 76% and for our aboriginal families 79%.

“During COVID peaks we prioritised our young babies, our more vulnerable families, First Nations families and anyone with a developmental concern for older children,” said Ms Howard. “I am really proud of our Maternal and Child Health workforce for being able to maintain such a high overall participation rate under these circumstances.”

According to the latest census information, the region’s families are growing, with 26 registered families in the Johanna region this census, more than double that of the 12 registered in 2016. Likewise, families in Wye River have also doubled from 7 in 2016 to 14 in 2021.

“Growth in working-age demographics is good for communities, because it supports local businesses, schools and clubs,” said Ms Howard. “We warmly welcome all of our new babies and look forward to seeing them grow and thrive in the Colac Otway Shire.”

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