22 March 2016

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains): I thank the member for Port Stephens and the member for Cootamundra for their contributions to this matter of public importance. Last week I spoke in this House about Playgroup NSW and the importance of its work in early intervention and prevention. Established 40 years ago, Playgroup NSW is the peak body for playgroups in our State. Why is National Playgroup Week so important? It is when we recognise that playgroups provide informal support to parents and children. These support networks will often last many years, helping families to get through the various transition points and challenges of early childhood.

There are 60 special purpose playgroups operating under the umbrella of Playgroup NSW. These groups target the needs of children with disabilities, Aboriginal families, kinship carers and other groups. Playgroup is often the first experience children have of interacting with their peers. Playgroup is often the first learning environment children experience outside the home. Playgroups provide the ideal bridge between the home environment and more formal learning environments such as preschool and kindergarten. They are affordable, costing families a few dollars a week, and are accessible to most families. We know that the best time for children to learn is when they are under the age of five years, when they are undergoing rapid brain growth. Playgroup not only helps children and their parents to make friends; it also provides a wonderful opportunity for positive learning experiences.

In my electorate of Blue Mountains there are playgroups in many of the villages, including Mount Riverview, Lawson, Katoomba and Faulconbridge. I congratulate parents on supporting these groups in their voluntary roles as coordinators, teachers, organisers, cooks and cleaners. Parents provide many necessary hours and resources; they are the glue that ensures these groups are well-run, sustainable and meet the needs of local communities. Connect Child and Family Services was established in the Blue Mountains more than 30 years ago. Connect plays an important role in supporting a variety of playgroups for children with disabilities and their families. The Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre [ACRC] in Katoomba runs a weekly playgroup for Aboriginal families, facilitated by ACRC's family support worker, Raylee Wall. The Blue Mountains Family Support Service runs playgroups in Blackheath and Mount Victoria, an initiative of manager Angelique Sasagi.

The coordinator of the Mountains Outreach Community Service playgroup, Jane Marshall, runs two generalist supported playgroups in Hazelbrook. Facilitator Sophie Corbett coordinates the Parenting Young Program, which provides an early intervention playgroup for young parents and their children. Parenting Young is a collaboration of health, educational and support services working together to meet the particular needs of young parents. Gateway Family Services operates the Lower Mountains Community Hub, where parents can have fun with their children, learn more about childhood development and find out about local services in an informal setting. I congratulate Playgroup NSW and all parents, volunteers, workers and organisations that ensure the success of playgroups in this State. Playgroups play a vital role in children's growth and development, and in the wellbeing of our communities.