Kensington midwifery clinic could be saved with lease extension

Kensington midwifery clinic could be saved with lease extension
Brendan Rees

A community campaign to save a much-loved Kensington family clinic could see the City of Melbourne enter a two-year lease with the building’s management.

Midwives and Mothers Australia (MAMA) has operated out of 30-38 Gatehouse Drive since 2011 when it became the state’s first private midwifery clinic, with services including acupuncture, physiotherapy, chiropractic care, aromatherapy, baby massage, and breastfeeding support among others.

But the City of Melbourne, which owns the building, announced its intention to sell the property, along with three others in the municipality, as they did not support “future needs, meet the standards for accessibility or align with the strategic objectives”.

The proposal prompted shock and disappointment from MAMA and its clients who said its services provided a “wonderful model of care” with an online petition also launched in a bid to keep MAMA’s services running at the building. 

 

The community’s strong show of support appears to now have the council’s backing with management recommending that the council enter a two-year lease with MAMA.

 

The recommendation was to be considered by councillors at their Future Melbourne Committee meeting on November 8, but it was deferred to the next FMC meeting on November 22.

The proposal to extend the lease has nonetheless spurred hope that MAMA could continue running in what would be a huge win for the community.

Public consultation (held between July 4 and August 7 through an online survey on the Participate Melbourne website) revealed “objections to the sale of the four properties were most often on the grounds that they should house community-oriented services”.

“There was also aversion to the idea that the properties could be purchased by developers,” the council report also stated.

“Respondents implied that there would be greater acceptance for the sale of council properties if assurance could be given the funds would directly benefit the community, especially by way of affordable housing.”

In an objection letter from MAMA’s management to the council, it outlined the importance of the clinic improving the mental health outcomes for women and families in the perinatal period, while also adding how the sale of the building had triggered uncertainty among its staff and clients.

 

“Despite our minimal revenue, we have always and to this day continue to offer free services that support our mission statement including counselling and breastfeeding support services,” the letter read.

 

“When the council announced that the building might be sold, our bookings (for birth which of course we take up to nine months in advance) went down by 50 per cent.”

“Uncertainty around the time of having a baby is NOT what makes people safe and does not improve mental health.”

The objection also explained that it had only just recouped the money it had spent to retrofit 38 Gatehouse Drive when COVID hit “because we have always placed accessibility of our services over profitability”.

MAMA services director Jan Ireland also spoke of their position to expand and build on the community work it has been offering at Gatehouse Drive over the past decade, “but will not be able to start again from a new premises”.

Her comments come after MAMA’s co-founder Kelly Langford said while the council’s intention to sell the building was “nothing personal against us or our services in closing the building, but I do wish that was more forethought in the proposal around the services it provides the community”.

MAMA’s management will attend the council meeting where they will make a verbal submission.

A council report said the building at Gatehouse Drive was currently zoned as a local government zone and rezoning is required prior to any divestment. If this was to occur, it is estimated that a rezoning planning scheme amendment would take 12 to 24 months.

Meanwhile, the council has recommended moving ahead with selling properties at 505-513 Abbotsford St, North Melbourne and 47-49 Canning St, Carlton, while affordable housing will be explored as part of the sale terms for 100-104 A’Beckett St in the CBD. •

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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