Pop up Play
Pop Up Play was a fun, soft entry program for families with young children. Auspiced by Gympie Community Place and funded over a six-month period by the Queensland Government the program trialled non-traditional entry connection points such as playgrounds, family friendly venues and shopping centres. Using a hospitality approach, where families are valued and served, the program provided the opportunity to showcase a more family-friendly approach to engagement. Our hospitality approach was an intentional strategy to welcome strangers within a context where acceptance and generosity are prioritised and trust is generated. In being hospitable with others, individuals’ strengths are acknowledged and differences are respected. Our hospitality approach utilises our sense of place, our vitality and our strengths to support others, address vulnerability, and collectively make a difference. The program also incorporated action research so that we could learn from the experiences of our local families and identify points of resilience and strength within the smaller communities of the Gympie region.
Following on from the success of Pop up Play, in 2019 a new program we call ‘Healthy Play’ was developed in partnership with PHN. Healthy Play, also based on the hospitality approach, involves mobile play sessions, education sessions, and pre-screening facilitated by an experienced social worker. The program aims to support child development and school readiness for vulnerable families in the region. Healthy Play seeks to connect vulnerable families who have difficulty accessing health services with appropriate health and allied health providers. The program runs in locations frequented by families with young children, offering friendship, developmental play activities, pre-screening, short term allied health services, assistance with navigation of the health and social service systems and group education sessions.
The Family Support Collective working group partnered with the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) and local schools to bring the Talking Families Schools Initiative to the Gympie region. The Talking Families initiative aims to normalise help-seeking behaviour among parents. QFCC research showed many parents worried about being judged if they struggled with parenting and they avoided telling others outside their family. In June 2019, Wolvi State School became the first Talking Families School in the region. Plans are in place to approach other schools and early education centres across the region.
A family fun day for Child Protection Week was hosted in September 2019. The aim of the fun day was to raise awareness and promote the message that protecting children is everybody’s business. The event was held on a Saturday at Gympie Central shopping centre. Free activities for families included a petting zoo, clown show, balloon artists, face painters, entertainment and performances, 15 activity stations, cultural workshops, competitions and prizes. Five hundred children participated. The event was co-funded by the shopping centre and a Child Protection Week grant, auspiced by Community Action Inc.