Program

View a PDF version of the conference program here:  FINAL Conference Program

To discover more about the presenters view our speakers section.

OPEN AND WELCOME TO THE CONFERENCE

A personal story of diversity and inclusion
Ahmed Saad

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION

Pick a lane: you can’t have it both ways- doing equity in early childhood
Anthony Semann

DIVERSITY FOCUS PRESENTATIONS

Concurrent Sessions A

What does culturally competent practice look like in a playgroup setting?
Megan Van Den Berg and Anita North
VACCA
This presentation explores the impacts of Australian history on Aboriginal families, what does culturally competent practice look like? And practical ways to provide culturally safe spaces for Aboriginal families in a playgroup setting.

Meaningful inclusion of children with disabilities into your playgroup
Lou Ambrosy
Noahs Ark
The seminar is aimed at supporting playgroup facilitators and educators to look at the skills and adaptations that may be required when supporting a child with disabilities to be included in the program.

Why? How and where? Engaging and sustaining fathers
Tom Docking
Dads Group Inc
A look at historical and contemporary parenting norms and how the need for dads groups has snuck up on our society like ‘the boiling frog’

Models for embracing the deaf community in playgroups
Melissa Thompson
The John Pierce Centre
Deaf people need and have a right to access the broad range of services, organisations and groups that exist for children and families. The Big Playgroup Meetup invites us to ‘hear’ how to embrace diversity, yet the ability to hear is not universal. A small number of specialist programs, playgroups, and other services exist to support families who have Deaf members. I will give insight into one such program and the Deaf organisation from which it is run. We will also look at the wider context, work-shopping strategies for making services Deaf-friendly.

Embracing cultural diversity: Attitude, knowledge and skills informing practice, working with CALD communities
Rakhi Khanna & Niquita Bekker
Yarra Ranges Council
Develop knowledge and skills to foster Diversity & Inclusion. Explore values and attitudes to culture, process of re-settlement and build on your cultural competency throughout this workshop. Reflect on how your cultural understanding impacts on your practice, at an individual level, service level and at a systems level.

Concurrent Sessions B

What does culturally competent practice look like in a playgroup setting?
Megan Van Den Berg and Anita North
VACCA
This presentation explores the impacts of Australian history on Aboriginal families, what does culturally competent practice look like? And practical ways to provide culturally safe spaces for Aboriginal families in a playgroup setting.

Understanding primary prevention of family violence and our unique role in playgroups- Girls and boys come out to play.
Helen Rimington and Amanda Testro
Drummond Street Services
An overview of the drivers of our problem of family violence in Australia, an exploration of how the early childhood sector can contribute to prevention. Finishes with a rollicking sing a long and some activities form our innovative new prevention program that focuses on respectful relationships and gender equality for parents and children at Playgroup.

Evaluating transition projects- implications for practice and building social capital
Janet Farrow and Justine Jones
Playgroup Victoria
Transition Playgroups are an important contribution to approaches that engage ‘hard to reach’ populations and equip parents to develop the skills to enable a seamless process to self-run community playgroup. All playgroups are greater than the sum of their parts and contribute to building webs of voluntary engagement between families leading to a quiet but effective building of civil society. PV’s experience of initiating three transition playgroups, in different localities, contributes to knowledge about the essential ingredients that help voluntary association prosper.

From Poverty to Potential
Dr Anita Kochanoff
Brotherhood of St Laurence
Families experiencing poverty are more likely to have challenges which could have negative impacts on children. Research shows that the effects of poverty when children are very young could be worse than at other developmental time points. It is important to understand the effects of poverty so that interventions can respond appropriately. Innovative approaches to help families with young children out of poverty will be discussed.

Rainbow families- welcome all families at all playgroups
Felicity Marlowe
Rainbow Families
‘Who’s in your family?” Rainbow families are everywhere!
Australian families come in all different shapes and sizes and an increasing number of these families include lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse, intersex and queer parents and carers and their children.
This session will explore the diversity of our rainbow families, highlight the challenges faced by rainbow families and our children with a focus on early childhood and discuss how to create inclusive communities that welcome all children, no matter the sexuality or gender of their parents or carers or how their family was formed.

PLAYGROUP PRACTICE IN FOCUS WORKSHOPS

Concurrent Sessions C

Girls and Boys Come Out to Play
Amanda Testro and Nancylee Merzel
Hullaballoo Music and Playgroup Victoria
With a great deal of experience behind them, Playgroup Victoria and Drummond Street services have partnered up to create a program about respectful relationships and gender equality. Pre-school music extraordinaire Amanda Testro was perfect for the role, bringing the messages to life in musical form. A wonderfully positive program has blossomed. The program is fun and funny, while also carrying purpose, meaning and great insight. Discover more about this enriching program during a workshop, featuring songs from the Girls ‘n’ boys come out to play set list.

Grafting ‘growing learners’
Belinda Davies
Brotherhood of St Laurence
Growing Learners is an early intervention program for vulnerable families with children 0-3 years, who want to strengthen the relationship they have with their child. This
multi-dimensional program encompasses diversity on many levels and aims to build on the strengths and wisdom of our families. This presentation will offer a snapshot of how this innovative program is working to enrich the potential of refuge and marginalised families living in three diverse communities located in the inner city and northern growth corridors. The families we engage with are from diverse cultural backgrounds, family
structures and experiencing complex challenges in their lives.

Including and understanding children with communication disorders
Lou Ambrosy
Noahs Ark
As Inclusion of all children becomes more mainstream, playgroup facilitators are finding that more children with communication disorders are being included. This seminar is written by an experienced speech pathologist and looks at the type of disorders you may encounter in your program; understanding augmentative communication and ideas to support the development of communication in young children

Understanding and planning for play for children with diverse needs
Professor Karen Stagnitti
Deakin University
This session will present the importance of pretend play and its development for children. The session will then be interactive with small group activities and discussion on how to engage children with diverse needs in play. Planning for developmentally appropriate play activities will also be covered.

Yarn Strong Sista
Annette
Yarn Strong Sista

Concurrent Sessions D

Making small talk- engaging families from diverse backgrounds using the small talk model.
Joelle Whiting
Mallee Family Care
The purpose of the workshop will be to share tips and strategies that I have implemented in my own practice that promotes inclusion for families from diverse backgrounds. My hope is to provide an opportunity to enhance other playgroup facilitators’ tools and knowledge to build into their own practice. The presentation will provide the link between the theory (smalltalk approach) and how it looks in practice. An additional lens will also be applied for working with parents who are literacy challenged requiring an alternative approach.

Totally Awesome Parents
Georgina Devereaux
City of Frankston

Stepping stones to engagement and success working with CALD communities
Rahki Khanna
City of Yarra Ranges
We will present our experience and learning of our Supported Playgroup that engages with communities from Myanmar (Burma) while incorporating the Smalltalk program. Our presentation will detail the journey from inception of this playgroup to now; which has culminated in a recent project/exhibition – Beyond Borders. This exhibition tells the unique stories of Refugees and Asylum seekers through a display of photographs and a documentary. Our presentation will focus on program innovation and delivery to create a safe, positive and nurturing environment while promoting equity and diversity.

CUPS (confident and understanding parents)- a child nutrition intervention for families attending supported playgroups
Judith Meyers
CCCH
We have developed an innovative approach to enhance the opportunity within SPs to connect families with a child nutrition program; and the strengths of SPs to embrace diverse families. Building on existing trusted relationships of SP facilitators, we co-designed a child nutrition intervention. The program is delivered in diverse ways in SPs. There is diversity in messages discussed (SP facilitators select messages most relevant for their families); diversity in family background (messages transcend cultural background); and diversity in response – families all changed something different

Continuous child rearing system in Japan: focusing on partnership with MCH section.
Professor Chiemi Nakagawa
Osaka University of Human Sciences
In Japan, the year 2015 saw the start of different types of user support services, which form the core of seamless support designed to prevent child abuse among the very young and bolster the childrearing support system, and their implementation and development has been left to each municipal government. The purpose is to discuss the present situation and role of the implementation system as well as the partnership between maternal child health section and related child raising support organization.

Concurrent Sessions E

Encouraging little linguists
Tilka Brown
The Language Toolbox
Imagine what could be achieved if we lived in a world where we all understood each other! Perhaps if more people in our society spoke another language, there would be a greater sense of compassion towards the many diverse cultures that constitute Australia. To enable our children to grow-up and fully embrace our multicultural society, we must encourage and support them with the tools they need to live multiculturally – with additional languages and a heart for all people. Through actively teaching linguistic differences to our children, they will learn to embrace, rather than fear, the richness of diversity.

One size doesn’t fit all: diverse communities need diverse playgroups
Jacinta Harper
Yarra City Council
According to the 2011 Census, 49% of families living within Atherton Gardens Housing Estate in Fitzroy were single parent families, 68% were born overseas, 86% spoke a language other than English and 91% of residents received some type of government benefit. Living alongside the estate are families with six-figure incomes. To ensure the diverse needs of this community for access to playgroups are met, supported playgroup agencies have been working collaboratively to plan, provide and evaluate groups. Between three agencies we provide 14 playgroups across the week including drop in groups, evidence based programs and parent-led groups.

Digital connections: Face to face communities
Tom Fagernes
Dads Group Inc
Dads Group Inc is a positive parenting initiative aimed at preventing issues such as isolation, suicide and violence against women and children by targeting men at a time when they are more receptive to positive change.
This workshop will explore how Dads Group Inc works to connect fathers with their communities.

Supporting the emotional well-being of parents: Is your playgroup PANDA aware?
Mary Edmonds
PANDA
1 in 7 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers experience post-natal anxiety and depression and up to 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men experience antenatal anxiety and depression. The stigma these parents experience – feelings of shame, guilt & fear are real barrier to parents accessing the support and services they truly need. Playgroups can be an important link for families to specialist services such as PANDA however facilitators need to be aware of the information and support available at PANDA for playgroup facilitators and parents. Join PANDA’s in Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Week (12th – 18th November) to hear a lived experience story of recovery through participation in a supported playgroup and explore PANDA’s new resources for playgroup facilitators.

Creating your own bilingual picture books
Jeannette Rowe
Children’s Author

Concurrent Sessions F

Rainbow families- welcome all families at all playgroups
Felicity Marlowe
Rainbow Families

Diversity in data- a lesson in diversity
Joanne Tarasuik
Playgroup Victoria

Digital connections: Face to face communities (cont.)
Tom Fagernes
Dads Group Inc
Dads Group Inc is a positive parenting initiative aimed at preventing issues such as isolation, suicide and violence against women and children by targeting men at a time when they are more receptive to positive change.
This workshop will explore how Dads Group Inc works to connect fathers with their communities.

The powerful impact of parent engagement in learning
Rachel Saliba
Engagement in Education Consultant
This presentation explores the diverse and natural learning opportunities parents have to engage with their children from birth. It explores ways to build parent awareness of learning as well as the impact parents have on their child’s learning as they move through each milestone. Rachel shares strategies in how to encourage engagement and interaction with parents in playgroups to impact learning and development.

Concurrent Sessions G

Understanding and planning for play for children with diverse needs
Professor Karen Stagnitti
Deakin University
This session will present the importance of pretend play and its development for children. The session will then be interactive with small group activities and discussion on how to engage children with diverse needs in play. Planning for developmentally appropriate play activities will also be covered.

Play for children with autism
Isabella Rosinsky
Playgroup Victoria 

Transcending boundaries one beat at a time: Embracing diversity through music therapy programs.
Meredith Drinkell
Sing n Grow
This presentation will focus on a national, evidence-based Music Therapy program delivered to vulnerable and at-risk families with children 0-5 years, that focuses on strengthening family relationships, building capacity in parents to support their children’s development in the early years of life, and encouraging the use of music within diverse communities. Music is an incredibly strong and effective tool for capturing a child’s attention and engaging them in interactions. The inherent qualities of music, along with its cross-cultural history of use by parents for soothing, calming and bonding with infants and children, help to make the Music Therapy setting a non-threatening and safe space for parents and children to interact and grow together.

Connecting, inspiring, learning with young mothers through supported playgroup
Anne Webster
Zoe Support Australia
Young mothers continue to experience stigma and are marginalised in daily life, in simply walking down the street, attending agencies such as Centrelink, medical or educational facilities and hospitals. The Zoe Support model provides a non-judgemental environment where external specialist services bring programs such as mental health support, MCHN, dental hygiene, child psychologists and education providers to Zoe, thereby reducing barriers for young mothers. By listening to clients, responding flexibly to expressed needs of clients in a place based environment, engaging daily, then connection occurs, aspirations develop and inspiration is shared by peers. The Zoe mission is: connecting, inspiring, learning.