Bob Sharpless, Sister Angela Mary and Maha Sinnathamby.
Bob Sharpless, Sister Angela Mary and Maha Sinnathamby.

$1 million donation for Australian-first health facility

THE visionaries and driving force behind the country's largest masterplanned community have donated $1 million to support the establishment of an Australian-first health facility.

Springfield City Group chairman Maha Sinnathamby and his wife Yoga and deputy chairman Bob Sharpless and his wife Belinda made the donation to Mater to support the Mater Family Wellbeing Service.

The service will assist Queensland families experiencing mental health challenges right before or after giving birth.

The donation marked the 95th birthday of Mater's first hospital administrator Sister Angela Mary.

The Mater convent in South Brisbane, which closed in 2015, will undergo significant renovations to become the new home of the Mater Family Wellbeing Centre.

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It comes a little over a month after Springfield City Group gifted $6.5 million to the Mater Foundation for medical research and health service innovation.

Mater has submitted a proposal to the State Government to build a public hospital in partnership with the government in Springfield, with strong backing from the community.

"Sister Angela Mary is our very dear friend and when she told us about this project that means so much to her, we could understand the absolute need for such a facility," Mr Sinnathamby said.

The Mater Foundation has raised $12 million but needs to raise another $6 million to be able to deliver the first-of-its-kind centre in Australia.

The convent will be overhauled and an extension added to house a mother and baby unit, a family admission unit and peri-natal parenting support services.

Mater mental health and young adult health senior manager Greg McGahan said the centre would aim to fill a gap in services for families experiencing mental health issues.

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"Our aim is to deliver an integrated model of inpatient and outpatient programs targeting the

antenatal, post-natal and early attachment periods for mothers, babies and families," he said.

"Research has shown that intensive specialist family-based interventions to address mental

health disorders and relationship disturbances in the early years improve outcomes on a wide

range of indices in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

"The centre will provide a spectrum of care that promotes wellness, parental mental health,

healthy relationships, and child development."

Mum of three Krystal Lording, who was diagnosed with postnatal depression after the birth of twin boys, knows the importance of such a service.

"It wasn't a great place to find myself in," she said.

"It's one of the hardest things that both my husband and I have experienced.

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"There was this contrast between being in such a negative place and yet I knew I should be

experiencing the joy of being a mum of my healthy twin boys and their older brother.

"When you feel like I did you need specialist support. You need to go somewhere that understands your situation and supports you in a very unique way."

Sister Mary said the huge donation would go a long way to making the facility a reality.

"To see the convent, repurposed into a place where families can receive the care and

support they need, is the most fitting use of this space," she said.

"It speaks to the work of Catherine McAuley, who started the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin in 1831, who looked after mothers who were in trouble; that was her mission.

"The gift from the Sinnathamby and Sharpless families is an incredible contribution."

To make a donation towards the service, contact Mater on 3163 8000 or visit here.

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.