Most parents of a newborn will need some professional help and support, even if it is not their first baby. All Australian states and territories offer free community services that specialise in the health of mothers and their babies. A child health centre is a good source of expert help, information, and advice.
What is a child health centre?
Child health centres give information and support to parents of young children from the time they come home from hospital to when they start school.
Child health centres have child health nurses, who have extra qualifications in child and family health nursing. Child health centres are free to all families in Australia.
Child health centres help support children so that they have the best health and development possible. This will help them to succeed in life and learning.
Centres have different names in different parts of the country. For example, you might hear them being called:
- early childhood health centres
- community health centres
- community health services
- child and baby health clinics
What do child health centres offer?
You might decide to go to a child health centre for information and support on:
- immunisation (some centres have an immunisation service; others will explain where to have your child immunised)
- your child's development and learning
- parenting advice
- child safety
- introducing family foods
You can talk to a child health nurse about your baby, your family and yourself. You can let them know if you have any worries or if you're finding it hard to cope. Your child health nurse can help connect you with other services and supports.
Child health centres do health and development checks at different points in a child's life. They also give you information on different parenting topics.
The child health nurse is trained to spot families and children who might need to be sent to another health professional for treatment. They will also support families when there is a health or development problem.
Parenting groups are a great way to meet other parents so you can learn from and support each other. Many child health centres arrange parent groups.
You'll usually be assigned a mothers' group by your hospital, antenatal class or child and family health clinic. If you're not assigned a group, you can find out about local support groups through the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Dads can also join Dad's Groups, and they can get more information about this from child health centres.
As your baby gets older you may want to join a playgroup. Playgroups are regular gatherings where your child can build social skills through play. Playgroups Australia has lists of registered playgroups in your state or territory.
Going to a child health centre
Often, the first time you see the child health nurse will be in your own home. You may then have regular appointments at the child health centre.
They will be able to help you if you can't get there by yourself. For example, if you have had a caesarean and can't drive.
They will let you know when to come back for health checks or immunisations.
You can also make your own appointments whenever you feel you want to see someone. All appointments with the child health centre are free.
Don't forget to bring your baby's infant health record when you go to a child health centre.
Where is my nearest child health centre?
Find more about the child health centres in your state or territory:
- Australian Capital Territory — Child Health Clinics
- New South Wales — Childhood and Family Health Services
- Northern Territory — Community Care Centres
- Queensland — Child Health Centres
- South Australia — Child and Family Health Service Centres
- Victoria — Maternal and Child Health Services
- Western Australia — Child Health Centres
Resources and support
If your child is sick, the best person to see is your doctor.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: May 2023