There was a big gathering at the old York Tennis Club  building to celebrate the official opening on April 19 of the Wheatbelt Women's Health Hub Inc.

The group was established as a support service  to connect families and people in the community. The first informal meeting aimed at establishing the group took place in December 2011 and involved Lois Ralph, Darlene Barrett and Wendy Steed.

Speaking at the opening chairperson, Wendy Steed, said word soon spread about the idea and Julie Ashworth joined the group. Further momentum came from a meeting with Hon Mia Davies MLC as she was then, who provided support and constructive feedback on the idea and initial planning, she said.

The volunteer committee held its first formal meeting in July 2012 to develop the vision and purpose for the group. It became an incorporated body in August. "Since then we have focused on networking to increase our knowledge, expertise, resourcing and access to support services," Mrs Steed said.

"We are very grateful for the assistance of groups and individuals 0including the GP Network, the Northam Health Promotions Officer, Mental Health Commission, Act- Belong-Commit, Shire of York, York Men's Shed, the York Community Resource Centre and the York and Districts Community Bank," she said.

The Hub had established small groups to organize activities like singing, pamper days, walking and art classes to keep people connected and to learn from others. It had also provided help for people undergoing cancer treatment and a refugee family in need of support, Mrs Steed said.

"At the end of May we will hold a diabetes and cooking workshop and our counselling service run by the GP network, will start soon. "We have a partnership with C Y O'Connor Institute to run a New Opportunities for Women course in the coming months. "We'd eventually like to be able to provide ongoing services to women and families in the wheatbelt at least five days a week," she said.

In her address, Mia Davies MLA said that services like those proposed and already being offered would become more and more important. With more than 1,500 people a week moving to WA and trying to keep up with this rapid growth, some would need support, particularly those in regional areas, she said.

The group has been operating on a part time basis since February with a temporary base in the old York Tennis Club building in Glebe Street. It is open Mondays 10.30 -11.30 for singing lessons entitled 'Sing like no one is listening'; Tuesdays 10.00am - 2.00pm for a cuppa, chat and foot spa and Thursdays 1.00pm - 3.00pm for art classes. More activities including short courses and workshops will be announced soon. For more information and to join email - wheatbelt or phone Julie on 0447 914 195.

Lindsay McNeill                       

ABOVE: Cutting a cake to celebrate the official opening of the Wheatbelt Women's Health Hub in York (L-R) Margie Barrett-Lennard, Darlene Barrett, Wendy Steed, Mia Davies MLA, Helen Darling, Julie Ashworth, Denese Smythe, Heather Brown and Joan Edom.