Play to Connect was developed in response to the evaluation findings and experiences drawn from the delivery of the Let’s Start program on the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory from 2005 to 2016.

It is an ongoing evidence-based action research project which investigates the effective implementation of a parenting program in order to address what works best for local Aboriginal staff, families and children in remote Aboriginal communities.

The Menzies multicultural team reconfigured the delivery model with the aim to adapt the program to the cultural needs of local staff and parents through a continuous circle of piloting, observation, reflection and adaptation.

The Play to Connect program incorporates two main objectives:

  1.  Active involvement of local Aboriginal facilitator in the setup and delivery of a short term, play based intervention for parents and children,
  2. Improvement of parenting and increased capacity of participating families to engage with the school and informal networks.

Play to Connect is a new approach based on international evidence for the effectiveness of early intervention based on play therapy principles. Play to Connect is a short-term intervention for families with children 4- 7 years of age, which aims to improve parenting knowledge and self-efficacy and connects families with other services through collaborative facilitation.

It intends to enhance the quality of the parent – child relationship by helping the parents to understand and respond to their children`s experiences and is responsive to parent’s needs, kinship, culture and Aboriginal family values. Play to Connect works with community schools, childcare centres and family support services to ensure that parents are supported in their community context. The program provides community-based early intervention and prevention and is delivered by trained local Aboriginal early childhood staff from different services and supervised by Menzies.

Three programs of the four sessions of a play–based, parent–child relationship focused program Play to Connect, where local workers have an active role from the design of the project through to co-facilitation of program delivery, were piloted in Wurrumiyanga on the Tiwi Islands in 2018 and 2019.

Chief Investigator:
Senior Project Officer:
Project dates:

The project commenced in July 2018 and will be completed in June 2023.

  • Department of Social Services
  • Community for Children
  • Australian Red Cross
  • The Centre also acknowledges the philanthropic support of Mr James Hogben.
  • Murrupurtiyanuwu Catholic School (MCS)
  • Wurrumiyanga; Red Cross.
  1. Strengthening family relationships through play

    Strengthening family relationships through play


    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...

  2. Play to Connect team adapts program to support remote communities during COVID

    Play to Connect team adapts program to support remote communities during COVID


    The Play to Connect team work with parents and children aged between three and seven to learn about child development through creative child-led play.

  1. Stock, C., Kerinaiua Punguatji, M., Cubillo, C., Robinson, G. (2021), Narratives and Processes – Developing a responsive parent-child program to empower local facilitators in a remote Aboriginal community, Qualitative Social Work.
  2. Stock, C., Mares, S. & Robinson, G. (2017). Working together in a good way: Relationships between local Indigenous and fly-in workers delivering a parent–child programme in remote Aboriginal communities. International Social Work, 62(1), pp.48-61.
  3. Stock, C., Mares, S. & Robinson, G. (2012). Telling and Retelling Stories: The use of narrative and expressive approaches in a group intervention with parents and children in a remote Aboriginal community. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 33(2), pp. 157-170.