Even the best laid plans were sidelined with the onset of the Covid19 pandemic in 2020.

The Isolated Children’s Parents Association (ICPA) knows all about this!

ICPA is a non-profit organisation dedicated to ensuring that the educational needs and aspirations of children in isolated locations are not disadvantaged because of where they live.

With funding from Highways and Byways, ICPA originally intended to work with health and wellness enterprise The Write Road to host a series of workshops for parents around Ivanhoe and Balranald on writing as a tool for health, healing and stress management. But a quick pivot saw the project evolve into something more. The workshops went online and branched out to support health, education and community service leaders who work with families in this region to enhance their use of digital communication technology.

Sessions focused on the safe and efficient use of technology, particularly Zoom and social media, as community building and engagement tools. It also included writing for wellbeing during times of isolation.

Remoteness and lack of access to services can present many challenges for families in this region, and online technologies can present new and creative ways to stay connected.

ICPA’s Kathleen Harris reported that ‘as President of the largest branch in the State, this training gave me the confidence to run our meetings on Zoom and to encourage others to overcome their reluctance to meeting in a digital space’.

She noted that one health professional in Balranald had been planning to run a group for isolated mothers in the region, but had been reluctant to do so online. However, as an outcome of these workshops, the worker felt not only sufficiently confident in the use of Zoom to facilitate a safe and welcoming space for new mums online, but also able to deal with unexpected events, such as the interruption of meetings by children.

Other participants also reported that they felt they could pass on their new skills to others in region. One workshop contributor specifically noted ‘I know at least ten people I can help as a result of what I’ve learned from the participants in this group,”

For the health worker engaging with new mums, she now believes that by supporting the women to manage the technology themselves, the women will be able to take carriage of their own meetings moving forward, and in doing so will stay engaged and connected as they navigate the ongoing challenges of parenting in isolated communities.