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Celebrating 100 years of Maternal and Child Health

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This year communities are celebrating Victoria’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Service, which has been helping to give babies and young children the best start in life for 100 years.

In June 1917, Richmond City Council supported the first Baby Health Centre, as it was then known, in response to concerns from community members about unacceptably high infant mortality rates.

Its success quickly led to the opening of two more centres in Carlton and Melbourne, before the movement spread rapidly across the state.

Today more than 827,000 consultations are held with families each year in Victoria by more than 1,100 trained MCH nurses. The service includes free regular check-ups and health support for children at key developmental stages up to the age of six, and is relied on by parents to ensure the ongoing health of their children.

Local government is the primary service provider, in a 50:50 funding partnership with the State Government.

MAV President Mary Lalios said the MCH Service played a special role in Victorian communities.

“Almost every Victorian would have had some kind of experience with their local Maternal and Child Health Service, whether it was as a child or a new parent,” Cr Lalios said.

“This year we are celebrating the rich history of the service and the people who worked tirelessly to see it established a century ago.

“It is also an opportunity to honour all the maternal and child health nurses who have helped to ensure every child in Victoria gets the best start in life.”

Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos said “reaching your 100th birthday is a remarkable testament to this fabulous service”.

“Across Victoria, over 1,100 maternal and child health nurses are doing an amazing job and I wish you a very happy celebration.

“Victoria’s maternal and child health nurses deliver a high quality service which is available to all families. It is the envy of the world.

“Over 100 years there has been so much change in Victoria. This service has grown and changed over time but it has maintained its quality and its relevance and I congratulate you all.”

Mayor of the City of Yarra, home to the first Baby Health Centre in the state, Cr Amanda Stone, said she was delighted to celebrate this remarkable century, and to highlight the special role Richmond and other Yarra suburbs have played in the ongoing success of the MCH Service.

“The Maternal and Child Health Service plays a vital role in the community, especially for new mothers.

“The centenary offers an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of local nurses, their administrators and support staff. All play an essential role in supporting and guiding families as they welcome children into the world and negotiate those all-important first steps,” Cr Stone said.

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Local and State Government will hold a major centenary celebration in the City of Yarra in June.

Media enquiries: Contact MAV President Cr Mary Lalios on 0447 189 409 or MAV Communications on 9667 5547.