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Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - Mr President, I commend the honourable member for Rosevears because it is well worthwhile and we are looking forward to having a northern hospice.

I am speaking today about a thing called MOPS, and it is not the one that you clean the floor with; it means Mothers of Pre Schoolers, Tasmania. There are many groups that have now started, particularly in the northern area, and I am sure all around the state.

MOPS is a unique organisation that began in 1973 in Colorado. It was started by just eight mums who were looking for some common ground and a support group that provided for mums as well as their kids. All too often, we provide support for the children but not for the mothers. In 1988, MOPS was renamed MOPS International and moved outside the US borders as more and more mums were starting up new groups. Australia now has 117 MOPS groups including Teen MOPS, which is a group specifically designed to cater for the needs of teen mums, and Mums Next groups which are for mums who no longer have children younger than school age. Of those groups, 11 are in Tasmania, and to keep up with growing demand and growing groups, several more are in the pipeline for northern Tasmania.

A MOPS group is anything from 10 to 75 mums who gather together for a structured session once a fortnight. Technically, it is all about providing support for mums to help them grow and develop and be the best they can for their children. Each group has its own MOPPETS group which is a separate group designed to care for the children but give the mums some time out to reflect and support one another. Each group is chartered through a local church but is run as a non-religious support group and is available to any mother with children under school age. Each fortnight the groups get together and start with a coffee handed to each mum as they walk through the door, made just the way they like it. They sit down for a chat and a bite to eat before they hear a guest speaker, chat for about half an hour or so on topics as diverse as how to dress for your shape, pampering yourself, cooking tips, understanding your child or your husband's character, relationship building, and fun activities to do at home to keep the little ones occupied. This is followed by a pre-arranged craft session and more discussion around whatever challenges or wins the mums may have experienced since the last meeting.

The idea behind MOPS was to provide an environment that offers mums support, friendship and some guilt-free time away from kids where they can vent if need be but also be encouraged to grow and develop their relationships with their families. MOPS is a unique organisation as it is the only child-free support offered to mums. Many playgroups, et cetera, are available but are solely child-focused. This organisation provides a fantastic set-up for the children at MOPPETS which includes morning tea, stories, play and many organised activities, all done while mums sit back and have their own special time at MOPS.

The MOPS Australia slogan is, 'better mums, better Australia' which is reflected in the immense amount of careful planning that goes into each MOPS meeting by the steering team of each group. Conferences are held annually for the steering team to train, support, nurture them, and to help them better assist each mum in their group.

Each group tends to have one or more charities which they choose to support with various events and fundraisers. A couple that have been run in Launceston recently included a Day in the Park to raise funds for the children's ward in Hobart, so we are not parochial. It was decided that the children's ward in Hobart needed money and that is where it went, to buy small but helpful items for the children such as DVDs and colourful bandaids - things to make their life a little brighter. Recently, over 100 Clean Birthing Kits were made by the mums in the northern suburbs group to send to Papua New Guinea where there is a death rate in birthing mothers of one in seven. The purpose of this is to encourage mums to support mums. These wonderful groups are growing rapidly as more and more mums are finding out about them and we are going to see much more of the MOPS in the coming years in northern Tasmania.

Hopefully, the increased existence of groups such as MOPS will enable us to see a decline in the occurrences of depression in our mums; it is something that is there. We know that many mums have post-natal depression and some do not have anyone they can readily go to and talk to. This group of MOPS takes the children to an area where they are taken care of and mums get the opportunity to talk to other people in similar situations and find out that they are not alone.

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