MEL Burgess knows firsthand the importance of receiving key introductions to other people when moving to a new area.
Ms Burgess relocated with her husband and two children from Waratah to Lambton almost five years ago and was invited to another Lambton Public School mum's barbecue, along with the woman's group of friends.
"It really does feel like quite the Sliding Doors moment, because those few families we were introduced to that afternoon have gone on to be a significant support network for us," Ms Burgess said.
"We see all of them way more often than we see our extended family and consider them to be cousin, uncle, aunt type relationships we can be ourselves in, move through times of grief and loss with, and team up with for fun and adventures."
Ms Burgess is now hoping to pay the favour forward, by organising a Welcome to Lambton breakfast on Thursday at Whisk Away Cafe, for families to meet each other before school begins.
Ms Burgess, a parent coach and owner of Love Parenting, said she had noticed in the past six months a "significant increase" in the number of parents she meets through her work and on local community Facebook pages asking questions about settling their newly-arrived family into Newcastle.
"They know that their best bet at having the easiest possible time of things this year is going to come from having each person in their family mapped in and settled as best they can manage," she said.
"In many cases they are as or more nervous than their child about the start of the school year somewhere new, and the research tells us that when children sense that their parents believe they have the capacity to navigate something, then they are best-placed to thrive through it."
Ms Burgess said she hoped the breakfast would bring together parents new to Lambton and those who currently reside in and love the suburb to meet in person, ask and answer questions and "experience a sense of feeling safe and welcome here".
"It's an easy thing to do for me that could potentially make a significant difference to others, so it was a no-brainer that I would throw the offer out on my social media and see who is interested," she said.
Ms Burgess said her "community building" idea was also inspired by social researcher Hugh Mackay, who she saw speak at Newcastle Writers Festival around the same time she started her business.
She said Mr Mackay wrote in Australia Reimagined that "the state of the nation starts in your street", that individual health depends on the health of the communities we belong to and that an individual's biggest protective factor is their immediate neighbourhood community.
"COVID illuminated the power of our communities and while we are able to mingle again I wanted to take the opportunity to facilitate some of the magic that I know happens any time you introduce like-minded folk and watch them find their way with each other," she said.
Ms Burgess said bolstering community connection provided a layer of support around individuals and families.
"Parents I meet with have such loads they carry, made heavier by shame and overwhelm and a sense that they are doing their parenting gig in a vacuum," she said.
"The more we show up vulnerably to the people around us the more they are able to show up vulnerably to us and that is where connection and safety thrives.
"What really helps me is to think of us all here as a community raising all the children. Like a big complex organism.
"We could get upset that Sydneysiders moving here are pushing house prices up, or we could make them welcome, find out what their mild superpowers and interests are and help them map their families in so that we can best operate as a thriving community."
Details: 7.30am, Thursday January 21, Whisk Away Cafe in Lambton. Free, aside from what attendees order. RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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