The Parent Collective

To round out our theme of community for May we have this blog is written by a guest contributor from Banks Peninsula, Annabel Craw. Agri professional, farmer, mother and innovator.

I am constantly blown away by the fascinating range of people who make up our rural communities. Their education paths, their work and their experiences. And in our special part of New Zealand a fresh initiative is providing these motivated and talented people with the chance to continue to do what they love by breaking down the barriers of isolation, childcare and diversity.

It began when our third child George was eight months old. I had the opportunity to get back into consultancy work part-time. However, the location of our sheep and cattle farm on Banks Peninsula meant my greatest obstacle to doing so, was childcare.

At the time, Akaroa & Bays Plunket Parent Network (of which I was convenor) was redecorating its building in Duvauchelle. Previously used as a community preschool, it became vacant when a new preschool was built next door. This paved the way for revitalised Plunket Rooms and our Plunket nurse to return but also meant the building was not utilised to its potential.

That is when the light bulb came on. “Why couldn’t I rent office space in the building?” I would be right next door to preschool and my driving time would be cut by an hour with the bonus of being away from the distractions of home and farm life.

After several months of this arrangement it became clear our Parent Network was onto a winner. We put the feelers out to other parents keen to benefit.

Sonya and Annabel outside parent collective

Slowly but surely ‘out of the bays’ came an amazing group of parents. We all shared a passion for what we did; a desire to enjoy our careers but at the same time to be there for our children at the end of the preschool day.

Thus, our concept is called The Parent Collective and using the space is a lawyer working remotely, Omoana Press artist and art teacher, Akaroa Osteopathy, Plunket services, a marketing manager, a social scientist, myself and others in the pipeline.

As they say, “strength lies in difference, not similarity”.

This initiative enables many things:

Parents the opportunity to resume work, study or establish a business;
Networking, social interaction and motivation from working alongside others (to our husband’s disbelief we do work efficiently!)
Generation of income for Plunket, which is reinvested into supporting local families;
Local economic activity.
On a personal level it has been a rewarding project; providing people with a means to achieve their goals, bringing life to a community facility, and a catalyst for developing friendships.

As our project evolved it became evident the ‘shared work space’ and collaborative movement was alive around the world, so in Duvauchelle we feel very ‘on trend’. I see the potential for this concept across rural New Zealand as we are a liquorice allsorts of people, with wonderful skills that should not be hidden nor wasted due to our geographical location.

In the words of Helen Keller, “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.

Annabel Craw is an agricultural consultant providing project management, financial capability and communication services to industry good and private companies. She is a sheep and cattle farmer on Banks Peninsula and mother to three very energetic but gorgeous children. Her passions are vegetable gardening, fitness, photography and getting up early to enjoy the best part of the day.

If you'd like to get in touch with Annabel email her at annabel.craw@gmail.com.