Awards recognise hard work in play

The work of playgroups across the state and the thousands of people who make them happen were recognised at Victoria's Annual Playgroup Awards 2017 at the Melbourne Aquarium earlier this month.                          

The Woodend Playgroup, part of the Macedon Ranges Shire Council, took out the prestigious Minister's Award for Innovation and Excellence while Rainbow Families Playgroup, North Fitzroy, won Playgroup of the Year.

About 40,000 children from 25,000 Victorian families are involved in a community playgroup at any one time.

The awards, run by Playgroup Victoria (PGV), recognise the crucial role of playgroups in bringing children, families and communities together, from inner city Dads groups to small family groups in rural towns.

"This was a complete surprise for us," says Kim Turner, President of the Woodend Playgroup.  "It's a real honour to have our group recognised in this way."

Among the group's creative pursuits is a bush playgroup held on a Saturday where children (and parents) can take part in a pram-friendly bush walk in the Macedon Ranges to get in touch with nature.

The Playgroup, in operation for the past 38 years, has formed particularly close links with the Woodend Library to promote the importance of books and literacy and other community organisations such as the Maternal and Child Health service.

As part of moves to promote a safe and supportive environment it holds a two-hour open session each week where members can come along and meet other families and organisations.

Playgroup Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation representing playgroups across the state.  It is funded by membership, fundraising and government grants, including $160,000 a year from the Victorian Government.

Investing in early childhood

Minister for Early Childhood Education Jenny Mikakos presented the Minister's award and announced an extra $200,000 for PGV to build stronger connections between Maternal and Child Health First Time Parent Groups and community playgroups.

She stressed the importance of playgroups in linking families and reducing social isolation. They provide opportunities for members to learn from other families about local services and supports.

"We are proud to partner with Playgroup Victoria and support them in the wonderful work they do to build stronger links between first-time parents and community playgroups," Ms Mikakos says.

Playgroup Victoria Chief Executive Officer Danny Schwarz welcomed the investment by the Victorian Government: "We are delighted to partner with the Government to ensure that all Victorian children and families have access to, and can participate in, community playgroups."

Other categories and winners are:

  • Playgroup Agency of the Year (City of Greater Dandenong)
  • Community Playgroup of the Year (1-4 sessions)
  • Metro (Fam Love Jam Band)
  • Community Playgroup of the Year (1-4 sessions)
  • Regional (Dimboola Playgroup)
  • Community Playgroup of the Year (5+ sessions) (St Andrew's Playgroup Bacchus Marsh)
  • Community Playgroup Leader of the Year (Lara Wallis, Active Dads Playgroup)
  • Supported Playgroup Facilitator of the Year (Belinda Lyons, Thomastown Library Supported Playgroup)
  • Supported Playgroup of the Year (Zoe Support Australia)
  • Playgroup Champion (Sue Wells, City of Greater Geelong).