A one-in-100-year pandemic may have put the brakes on many facets of everyday life, but our primal, basic need to procreate has continued unabated.
Reports have shown birth rates at South West Healthcare during the pandemic have matched data from the previous three years, with predictions the 2022 rate will climb above the average.
The township of Koroit has become a mecca for young families, with affordable house prices and a relaxed small country town lifestyle attracting many from bigger areas such as Warrnambool.
The opening of new housing estates, a redeveloped supermarket and continued improvement of facilities and resources at the two primary schools has ensured the town's infrastructure is meeting the needs of the growing community.
Another need being met is that of young couples who are starting or building their families.
The Koroit branch of the Port Fairy Medical Clinic has set up a mother/baby program, which focuses on a shared-care model.
This includes ante-natal and post-natal care, with access to feeding consultants, midwives and doctors.
This program has been operating since the opening of the clinic in 2017, and has now shifted into top gear with momentum building, ensuring the benefits of the program are now well-known.
Clinic practice manager, feeding consultant and midwife Carolyn Billington said the program's reputation had expanded beyond Koroit.
"This program is not just for patients of our clinic, it is there for the wider community," Ms Billington said.
"We have had referrals from Warrnambool and Portland, from maternal health and GP clinics.
"It is here to help families who need pre- and post-natal care, or feeding advice or education about sleep patterns.
"It's for dads too, we are wrapping our arms around everyone so its full family support."
Gina Crosier is one of the young mums the program has, and continues to, benefit.
The Crosiers came to live in Koroit four years ago from Port Fairy, a similar tale to many young families who have moved from bigger centres.
Ms Crosier said the program had helped her family feel welcome and connected in Koroit.
She and her two-week-old baby Elsie are already well-known to the program staff.
"I found the program is really good to give that continuity of care," Ms Crosier said.
"To have ongoing support from people who know you well and your situation is great, not having to chop and change.
"This is my second baby and this pregnancy was a lot different, I was a lot sicker this time.
"Having that support and back-up was really important."
The front line of the program is occupied by the clinic's administration staff member Alysha Phillips.
A mother of three young children, Mrs Phillips and her family moved to Koroit four years ago and know the expectations and needs of Koroit's newest generation of rising community members and leaders.
"Where we live in Koroit we are surrounded by other young families with kids and pregnant mums," Mrs Phillips said.
"We have been able to identity those important times when young families need support.
"In the initial stages we were able to make sure we would be pro-active, making sure we were contacting new mums and not leaving them to fend for themselves for too long between visits."
Midwife Jess Clift is also part of the program staff and sees many benefits for the young families who utilise this resource.
She said care from pre-natal, right through to immunisations as four-year-olds, gave parents a consistent line of familiar and trusted practitioners to put their faith in.
She said the program was proving especially important during COVID.
"It's a great way of linking in at these times for young parents whose extended families don't live close by," Ms Clift said.
"They have a place they can go any time if they are uncertain and access trusted support and advice.
"The nature of the clinic and program makes it very personal, with smaller, private consulting rooms which makes it more intimate and easier to develop close relationships between staff and those accessing the program."
Dr Eleanor Donelan is the final piece of the puzzle in this team that has this program making a name for itself in Koroit and way beyond.
Dr Donelan said the work being done at the clinic in Koroit has exceeded expectations.
"This program is creating a real hub for young families and connecting the dots in terms of bringing so many parts together," Dr Donelan said.
"All our skill sets combined makes for a very holistic approach."
While Dr Donelan is proud of what her team is achieving, she is also thrilled with their desire to continually find ways to improve and deliver more for their community.
"One area of need we have identified is advice around sleep and settling," she said.
"There is a lot of conflicting advice out there from a lot of practitioners of variable backgrounds and price points.
"It can be really difficult for families to get evidence-based, appropriate support.
"As a clinic we are doing additional accreditation in a program called neuro protective developmental care, which is through the Possums Clinic in Brisbane.
"We want to meet this need, whether that is through a one-off intervention or ongoing care, we can be flexible."
Dr Donelan said the development of the program was in line with the type of community Koroit now is.
"When we opened the doors of the clinic in February 2017, we were really struck by the fact this is not just an elderly community," she said.
"It was very clear there was an increasing number of young families here needing support, so servicing that need became a big part of our vision going forward.
"What we now have in place is rewarding, it shows we are in tune with what the community needs."
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