Tolley makes history at Heywire

Local woman Zelma Tolley, who was selected as one of ABC Heywire's Trailblazer finalists, has given the very first postnatal focused presentation to Parliament in the program. 

TRAILBLAZER: Zelma Tolley talking on the ABC breakfast news on Wednesday morning. Image supplied.

TRAILBLAZER: Zelma Tolley talking on the ABC breakfast news on Wednesday morning. Image supplied.

Mrs Tolley began her initiative three years ago after she gave birth to her first child and experienced postnatal depression and the lack of specialist care available to her and her child in a regional town. 

She developed her website, The Postnatal Project, which features links to support and provides ways to help tackle the emotional experience of being a parent. 

Mrs Tolley initially applied for the regional Trailblazer program in 2017, which aims to empower young leaders from regional areas, and encourage them to share their stories and build their professional network and their own initiatives. 

"I got to finalist stage (in 2017) but was going to be heavily pregnant during the summit so was unable to progress any further," she said.

"I was encouraged to apply for this round and did so in August 2018... I was selected along with 15 other incredible young Australian people. 

"They cover things like art, tourism, drought, drug and alcohol addiction, life on the land and other innovative community groups….Mine is the first postnatal focused program in Heywire history."

Mrs Tolley appeared on ABC Breakfast news on February 13 before presenting to Parliament the same day. 

She is in Canberra this week, coinciding with the 2019 Heywire regional youth summit.

She said she has received enormous support for her programs and e-books that tackle postnatal depression. 

"Parliament house is beautiful and such an inspiring place to be, I never thought I'd be standing in there at age 26 giving a presentation," she said. 

Mrs Tolley said she focused on things including the lack of specialised maternal mental health services in regional areas, and that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will develop postnatal depression. 

"Children are the future and in order for them to thrive, our mothers need to be cared for too," she said. 

"We have moved away from natural and instinctual parenting...It is not natural to parent alone which is extremely common practice. 

"We are designed to parent as a community and this leaves mothers isolated and susceptible to postnatal depression and anxiety."

Mrs Tolley said there are plenty of opportunities for her project to get funding after receiving feedback from those at her presentation to parliament. 

In the future, Mrs Tolley plans to run wellness support groups locally in Port Lincoln, and not just for those experiencing postnatal depression or anxiety but also those who are seeking "soulful connections" within the community.

"The plan is also to expand on my online support and journalling program which is called 'Mama, Let's Be Wholesome' and is due for release in 2019," she said.