Members of MAD (Mums and Dads), a group of young parents coordinated by Southern General Practice Network (SGPN) in Cooma, wanted to share information about health issues and communicate with other young people. SGPN welcomed the opportunity to promote healthy parenting and community activities for other young parents.
SGPN and South East Arts Region (SEAR) sourced funds and engaged a professional artist, Rewa Nolan, to run photographic workshops for the group and produce a short film about their lives. The project aimed to reduce the stigma of parenting and support MAD members to become champions for change by sharing their stories.
The short film on the life experiences of the 25 participants went beyond everyday parenting challenges to explore major obstacles these young people had overcome. Group members felt their stories could help other teenagers and community members to understand their point of view and make better decisions. They learned photography and film-making skills and created images for an exhibition that promoted social inclusion.
SGPN aims to improve access to health services for people who are disadvantaged, including young parents who face barriers to education and employment. The network promotes the message that including pregnant and parenting teenagers in the community and the lives of other local people is critical to their success as parents. Promoting the stories of the MAD group has meant referrals to the SGPN youth health support worker have come from a larger number of sources, including local employers, Centrelink, GPs and schools.
Through the partnership SEAR has achieved increased participation in arts practice for young people in a regional area and assisted in improving social wellbeing of communities in the region. More than 200 community members viewed the film and opening of the photographic exhibition. Over 2,000 high school students have seen the film and provided positive feedback through high school welfare programs. Many GPs have requested copies of the film for their young patients to view. Local community groups including Rotary, View, Lions and APEX have hosted presentations to discuss how to provide more support to the group. In 2010 the M.A.D Beyond Roundabouts project won both the state and national Arts and Health Foundation Awards as part of the 2010 Australian Business Arts Foundation (now known as the Creative Partnerships Australia) Awards.
The Institute for Creative Health will be sponsoring the next stage of this project in collaboration with Southern NSW Medicare Local. The next stage will see the development of a 27-minute film using both existing and new footage as well as the development of an iBook to be available on iTunes. The iBook will contain extended footage, interactive referral services and more in depth case studies exploring the issues that the young parents face. The iBook will be useful to health and education workers as an overall resource or on a session basis where they will be used to help identify the issues such as domestic violence, depression etc that these young parents are facing.