Local Aboriginal implementation officers are delivering an innovative variation of the Play to Connect parenting program in Wurrumiyanga, Tiwi Islands to support families through learning and play.

The Menzies Play to Connect team works with parents and children aged three to seven to learn about child development through participation in creative child-led play.

In the interactive sessions, parents sit with their children and together they choose what they want to do: paint, build or play an interactive game. The parent then practices special skills for play: how to let the child lead, how to listen, to watch and give positive feedback.

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions the team have adapted their training plans so local staff were able to deliver the program through home visits, with remote support from the Darwin office.

Play to Connect program coordinator Carolin Stock said that following collaborative discussions with Tiwi staff members, Maggie and Aileen, the team has adapted the delivery model to meet current National Public Health pandemic guidelines to allow them to continuously support parents in Wurrumiyanga.

“The newly adapted model draws on our experience working with parents on the program last year and local capacity building. Maggie and Aileen, who were participants of the program themselves, are providing resources and support to parents and families who are now caring for their children at home under the current restrictions," Carolin said. 

“The challenge of adapting to the uncertainties and operational hurdles facing our work has been an insightful learning experience, highlighting the importance of innovative teamwork.

“The responsive approach taken by the team demonstrates that supporting and developing the capabilities of an Aboriginal workforce are central to engagement of families, delivery of the program and responding to external pressures.”

Maggie and Aileen’s visits have received positive feedback from the families involved in the project about the adapted delivery model and the importance of family programs continuing to happen at this time.

“Despite the cancellation of the group programs, families have expressed pleasure that the home visits are occurring and that there is recognition of feelings of loneliness and confusion during this difficult time. For them, the support of the local Play to Connect team is a helpful and needed initiative,” Carolin said.

The Play to Connect program was developed in response to the evaluation findings and experiences drawn from over 11 years of the delivery of the Let’s Start program.

Funding for Play to Connect is provided by Red Cross, Communities for Children strategy. Find out more about Play to Connect here: menzies.edu.au/playtoconnect