2A The first 1000 days


Fiona May,
Playgroup Australia
Wednesday November 21 2018

Time: 3:45pm – 4:15pm

Room: Kuranda Ballroom

2A The first 1000 days

A thousand days of play


Across Australia, over 150,000 parents, carers and children participate in more than 6200 community playgroups every week.

Playgroups are a uniquely Australian service supporting families and children in the first 1000 days. In this crucial stage of life’s journey, playgroups respond to the needs not only of the child, but also the parents and carers in this challenging (and often isolating period).

Our playgroup model is a tried and tested program of:

  • play-based early years development
  • parent and carer support
  • community development.

Children who attend playgroups have been found to perform better on all Australian Early Development Census (AECD) domains.

• Attending playgroup is also associated with stronger social networks and peer support benefits for parents in the early years.
• The peer support potential of playgroups can reduce isolation and the impact of depression, provide parenting role modelling, connect families to local services and provide a platform for referrals to community/government services.

A recent RMIT Centre for Urban Research study found that community playgroups:

  • have enormous social/economic benefits for children but also for their parents and carers
  • provide essential social supports for parents raising young children, especially where a parent doesn’t have other peer support networks
  • equip members with parenting skills and connect them to the community (particularly true for culturally and linguistically diverse families)
  • help families to feel less socially isolated and increase connection to their local community
  • have adapted to the changing face of caring for young children with grandparent playgroups, dad’s playgroups and ethnic specific playgroups emerging over recent years
  • were found to be important and trusted sources of advice and support for families with very young children.

Our playgroup model has been found to have positive benefits for disadvantaged families. The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) research project by Hancock et al demonstrated that for disadvantaged families prolonged playgroup attendance was associated with:

  • better learning outcomes (particularly for boys)
  • better social-emotional outcomes (particularly for girls)
  • mothers having greater and more consistent social support
  • more time participating in other healthy activities.

The study also found that mothers from disadvantaged families who attended playgroup were:

  • more likely to have consistently good support from friends over time
  • more likely to see improvements in the level of support they received from friends over time
  • less likely to see declines in the level of support they received from friends over time.


Fiona May joined Playgroup Australia as CEO in July 2018.  She brings to the role her experience as a CEO in the ACT community sector, most recently as CEO of the ACT, Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service.  In 2017 Fiona was named the Not-for-profit Leader of the Year for the ACT by the Institute of Managers and Leaders and also received an ACT Chief Ministers Inclusion Award for Championing Human Rights.

Playgroup Australia is the national peak and representative body for playgroups in Australia.

Our member organisations are the state and territory playgroup organisations across Australia who collectively represent playgroups across 80% of postcodes in Australia.

Our nearly 50 year history is embedded in the very fabric of Australia’s family and community culture.