Looking into school lunch boxes

Researchers at Deakin University want to talk to parents and caregivers of primary school aged children about packing school lunch boxes.

Honours student Kimberley Watson-Mackie’s research project is “School lunch boxes: are parents and caregivers under pressure?”

“The project aims to explore the experiences of lunchbox preparation by parents and caregivers in Victoria, and their adherence to the school policies,” Kimberley said. “This research will shed light on the lunchbox options of primary school aged children in low-income families, including any challenges in creating healthy lunchboxes.”  

Participation in the research involves an interview, lasting approximately 30 to 60 minutes, that is conducted either remotely or in person.

Parents and carers will be invited to talk about managing their child’s tastes, working with school policies, cost pressures and trying to make the lunchbox as healthy as possible.

Participants will receive a $20 voucher to thank them for their time.

If you receive the Parenting Payment or JobSeeker Payment, have children in primary school and would like to participate in an interview about the pressures associated with lunch boxes, contact the research team.

For more information, contact Dr Fiona McKay, phone 9251-7183 or email fiona.mckay@deakin.edu.au.

Vaccination booking and transport help

Do you or someone you know want a COVID-19 vaccination and either can’t use technology to make the booking or don’t have any transport options to get to a vaccination centre?

Volunteering Geelong’s Community Transport service has regular bookings, Monday to Friday, at the Barwon Health Community Vaccination Hub in Norlane.  They can assist you to get to your vaccination appointment with a team of helpful, friendly volunteer drivers.

The service provides a reliable transport option to eligible individuals within the Greater Geelong and surrounding regions.

To book a vaccination, check your eligibility and type of vaccine and then call Volunteering Geelong on 5221-1377 and they will help book your appointment and transport.

Determine which vaccine you will receive by calling the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 or check the eligibility tracker online (https://www.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/covid-19-vaccine-eligibility-checker) Remember, the vaccine is free and will help protect family, friends and the most vulnerable Victorians.

Walking for community impact

Norlane resident Ben Le Fevre has completed a significant personal challenge to honour lost loved ones, raise money and awareness of suicide prevention activities in Geelong.

As well as playing a key role in the annual Geelong Suicide Prevention Awareness Network (SPAN) walk this month, during July he walked 200 kilometres on his way to raising $2791 for RUOK?

The RUOK? event raised money to help provide counselling in remote areas and develop programs for schools and workplaces about how to ask RUOK? and know how to follow up if the answer is no.

The 200 kilometres, about six kilometres a day, were at night and mostly alone. Sponsors supported his effort and contributed to his fundraising result, which exceeded his original goal of $1000.

“I decided to do the kilometres at night because my loved ones were in a dark place at the time,” he said. “I also carried a weighted bag, because I know they would have been carrying a lot of emotions with them.”

Ben, 26, is a Geelong SPAN committee member and has joined its annual walk since it began in 2010. Ben has lost six loved ones to suicide since 2008 and joined SPAN to get support for himself.

“I then realised that Geelong still had an issue with suicide and depression being a taboo subject,” he said. “I wanted to help raise awareness.”

The traditional SPAN walk was replaced by a virtual walk on September 13, with Ben providing a welcome to participants via a Facebook live feed. He said the walk helps dismantle the stigma around the taboo subject and is a safe place to talk about loved ones lost to suicide.

Ben said he has experienced depression himself and knows what a merry-go-round it can be. He wants everyone to have access to support when they need it most.

If you or someone you know needs help phone, Lifeline on 131-114 or Beyond Blue on 1300-224-636. You can support SPAN Geelong by going to its website https://www.spangeelong.com/

Help is a phone call away

Bethany Community Support has launched a new program to support people as they work through impacts of COVID-19. These include sudden loss of income and jobs, social distancing, working from home and daily messaging in the media that can increase levels of stress and anxiety. 

Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. The Bethany COVID-19 Support Line – 1300-655-598 – is a new and easy pathway to speak with a trained counsellor. 

Bethany’s support services include the provision of emergency relief to help those who are struggling to cope with financial stress, support for individuals and families including therapeutic counselling, family support and housing services, occupational therapists and speech pathologists to assist with your NDIS journey and support for gambling-related harm.

Bethany is committed to supporting the community and has adapted the way staff deliver all of their services, which are now effectively delivered over the phone; online via secure video conference or video calls; or in person with strict precautions to manage safety.

Therapists can also invite carers, support co-ordinators, language interpreters and any other people the participant would like to include in the session.

Bethany COVID-19 Support Line counsellors will listen, provide support, advice and helpful strategies as well as guide you to services that might be useful for your particular situation.

No problem is too big or small.

If you, or someone you know needs someone to talk to, call the Bethany COVID-19 Support Line on 1300-655-598, from Monday to Friday, 10am-3pm.

Keeping active at home

The City of Greater Geelong has put together a health and wellbeing resource to help residents create and live a healthy lifestyle, particularly in times of isolation.

Healthy at Home shares a range of ideas that can be easily adopted, like nutritious recipes, mental health support, information about positive relationships and tips for keeping active at home.

Increasing your daily activity can come from small movements around the house that build up throughout the day. Cleaning and doing laundry, working in the garden, or trying some stretches during TV ad breaks all count.

Aiming for a little more movement whenever, wherever and however you can, is a great way to boost your physical and mental health.

Mayor Stephanie Asher said the Healthy at Home toolkit has been designed to help people support the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families.

“It can be a difficult balance, juggling this new way of living, supporting others’ wellbeing and trying to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep yourself” she said. “The toolkit features a lot of very helpful information and practical tools.”

Cr Pat Murnane, Chair Community Health, Wellbeing and Safety portfolio is encouraging residents to check out the toolkit, as there’s something for everyone.

“There are tips on sleeping well, mindfulness exercises, links to online fitness classes, recipes for delicious infused water, and even a meal planning template and sample shopping list,” Cr Murnane said.

Find the Healthy at Home toolkit at www.geelongaustralia.com.au/healthyathome

Residents without access to the internet can register for a printed toolkit by phoning 5272-5272.

Barwon Health North is making a difference

Northern suburbs residents are turning to Barwon Health North’s Urgent Care Centre for treatment for minor illnesses and injuries, as well as x-ray and medical imaging. The new facility, located on the corner of Cox Road and Princes Highway, opened in late January and is a walk-in service for people with minor illnesses and injuries.

The Urgent Care Centre is staffed by highly-skilled nurse practitioners, registered nurses, medical imaging staff and patient services assistants.

Nurse practitioners can examine, diagnose illnesses/injuries, treat wounds including sutures, plaster, prescribe medication/treatment and make referrals. Nurse practitioners have a direct video link to doctors at University Hospital Geelong’s Emergency Department.

Barwon Health North’s Urgent Care Centre is open seven days, 2pm to 10pm, including x-ray and medical imaging. More services including child and family, healthy at home and adult and paediatric specialist clinics will open in the coming months.

Bell Park mother Tiana Dawes used Barwon Health North’s walk-in service for a quick result after their two-year-old son Ollie swallowed a coin.

Tiana called her mother in a panic after Ollie lodged a 10-cent coin in his throat, anticipating spending hours waiting at the Emergency Department as a less urgent patient.

“I was about to head into town, but Mum told me Barwon Health North was open and it was closer,” she said.

“We came here and by that time he had swallowed the coin. It was two days before he was due for a tonsillectomy, so that was my main concern. The facility is excellent and the staff were great. They made us feel welcome and took us straight through.

“The staff observed his breathing while he had a bit of a run around and play, and made sure he was OK before they sent us home with the all-clear.”

For more information about Barwon Health North go to www.barwonhealthnorth.org.au or phone 4215-8000.

Cancer screening in the north

Western Victoria Primary Health Network (WVPHN) is leading a Bowel Cancer Screening Project in Corio and Norlane until June 2020 to increase screening participation rates among 50-74 year-olds.

The community-led project has funding from the Department of Health and Human Services and is made up of an advisory committee, comprising five community members, who advise and inform WVPHN on initiatives. The Cancer Screening Community Project Officer is also available for group presentations and sets up regular information stalls.

Bowel screening has been recognised as a priority for 50-74 year-olds. Corio and Norlane National Bowel Screening Program rates sit below the national average, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2015-16 Cancer Screening Rates.

To help prevent bowel cancer in men and women aged 50-74, WVPHN is also running a Peer Education Project in Corio/Norlane.  It is seeking Peer Educators, who will be paid $40 an hour for approximately 8-10 hours of training, peer sessions and evaluations.

To get involved or if you are interested in more information or a bowel cancer screening presentation at your organisation/community group, please contact: Anne O’Callaghan, Cancer Screening Community Project Officer, Western Victoria Primary Health Network, phone 5222-0876 or email anne.ocallaghan@westvicphn.com.au.

Peace of mind for isolated

Do you know someone who lives alone and feels isolated?  The Community Support Regster can help.

First established in 2006, the Community Support Register operates from the Corio Police Station and is staffed by a dedicated group of volunteers, supported by local donations and sponsorship.

The register collects health and other personal information to be accessed if the person cannot provide it themselves due to an accident, fall or illness.  Police, ambulance, hospital and fire services can quickly access the register, but only in an emergency.

Information may include:

  • Doctor/pharmacist details.
  • Medical history and details about any disabilities.
  • People to contact in an emergency.
  • Pets and who is to care for them.
  • How access can be gained to property in an emergency.

Participants can choose what information they wish to provide.  Regular phone calls can be arranged with the volunteers to people who are feeling isolated and would benefit from social contact.

The Community Support Register is open to people of all ages and abilities and is a free service – there is no cost to register.

To find out more contact: Geelong register, phone 5275-1607 or email info@geelongregister.org.au.

Day hospice in Norlane

Day respite is available in Norlane for people with life-limiting illness. Anam Cara Hospice is hosting weekly sessions at Dorothy Thompson Centre in Wendover Avenue.

The day program runs every Wednesday from 10.30am until 3pm, co-ordinated by Day Hospice Nurse Manager Tessa Davis, with support from palliative care-trained volunteers.

“People with life-limiting illness can come and have quality time with a palliative care-trained nurse,” Tessa said. “They can enjoy some time to chat, socialise and meet new people. We can advocate for them in terms of pain management, as well as liaise with their family, GP and specialist.”

Tessa said day program is the first outreach in the northern suburbs and is also an opportunity to give carers a break.

For more information, call 5222-5831.

Gardening: Time to think about winter vegies

We’ve said goodbye to summer and the labour-intensive work in the garden over the warmer months and hello to the lower maintenance time of the cooler weather.

A crop of onions, leeks and garlic is always a bonus to the home cook and some can be stored after they mature and used during the coming seasons. They are not hard to grow and their flavor fresh out of your garden makes the produce out of the supermarket seem very bland and uninteresting, lacking in looks and flavor.

Another keeper is pumpkins – if they are cut after the vine withers and dies off, stored in a cool, dry place with a constant temperature, they will keep for months and the flavor is amazing.

Top of the agenda during the winter months are cabbages, cauliflowers and brussels sprouts. Grown from seedlings they seem to take forever to reach maturity, but the wait is worth it.

They do need monitoring to make sure that the white cabbage moths don’t eat them all for dinner and they must be kept dusted or covered under fine netting to keep them safe. They are at their best both in flavor and in vitamin content when fresh from the garden.

A spare cauliflower can be used to make a lovely pot of Picalily Pickles – the recipe is an old one my Gran brought out from England in 1921. It’s easy to make and a great keeper, I’ve kept it for three years in storage.

Now is also the time to buy in your bulbs ready for spring and summer flowers. Bulbs grow well in pots so they’re great for balconies or patios. Look for big, firm bulbs and plant them three times as deep as their height, with their shoot facing upwards. You’d be amazed how many people plant them upside down. Don’t overwater them or they may rot.


Start with: 1 cauliflower, 3 zucchinis, 3 large onions, ½ cup salt.

Finely chop all vegetables and put into a large plastic bowl or bucket with salt. Mix through and cover with water. Leave overnight.

Next day, tip into large boiler, bring to boil for five minutes, then strain off the water.

Add 3 to 4 cups sugar, 1 level tablespoon salt, a pack of pickling spice tied in a cloth and cover with enough white vinegar to cover plus an extra 1.2 centimentres (usually takes 2 bottles). Bring to boil for approximately 15 minutes.

Thicken with a mixture of 1 ½ cups plain flour, 2 tablespoons mustard and 1 heaped tablespoon turmeric mixed together with water. Boil a further 10-15 minutes to cook the flour, stirring frequently, remove the spices tied in the cloth and bottle into hot bottles. Seal with paraffin wax.

If it’s too thick add more vinegar; if too thin add more flour mixture.

If it’s not spicy enough add more mustard, but remember that flavor will improve and grow stronger when stored before using.