2017 Playgroup Awards: Woodend and Inner North Rainbow Playgroups

This year's Playgroup Awards recognised Victorian playgroups for going above and beyond their vital role in strengthening families and communities, and instilling children with a lifelong love of learning.

Woodend Playgroup from the Macedon Ranges took out the prestigious Minister's Award for Innovation and Excellence while Inner North Rainbow Playgroup, North Fitzroy, won Playgroup of the Year.

The awards, run by Playgroup Victoria (PGV), recognise the crucial role of playgroups in bringing children, families and communities together - from inner city Dads groups to small family groups in rural towns.

Woodend Playgroup for the whole family

President of the Woodend Playgroup Kim Turner says, 'This was a complete surprise for us.'

'It's a real honour to have our group recognised in this way.'

Since the playgroup began 38 years ago, Woodend Playgroup has worked hard to forge a community and support for families.

As well as craft, reading with the Woodend Library and games for the kids, Woodend Playgroup hold a bush playgroup held once a semester.

Children and parents go on a pram-friendly bush walk in the Macedon Ranges and get in touch with nature.

The Playgroup also works with other community organisations, such as the Maternal and Child Health service, to ensure all families and kids have the best knowledge and care.

An open session each week allows members to meet other local families.

The Playgroup has also worked with Macedon Ranges Shire Council to reach out to young parents and their children as part of the Young Parent Connection Project, linking them with other local families to form vital support networks.

Diverse families celebrated with Inner North Rainbow Playgroup

Fresh from celebrating the "Yes" to marriage equality vote, Inner North Rainbow Playgroup – a playgroup for LGBTIQ families – celebrated again that week when they won Playgroup of the Year.

Inner North Rainbow Playgroup volunteer facilitator Sally Beattie says the parent-led playgroup were 'overwhelmed' to receive the award.

'It was humbling in a room full of diverse and incredibly active playgroups,' Sally says.

'The room erupted in applause and I'm sure people were showing support for our families and all we'd been through for two months, as well as applauding the award.'

Hosted at Bargoonga Nganjin North Fitzroy Library, the Inner North Rainbow Playgroup was highly commended for embracing diversity.

They provide a safe space for LGBTIQ families and their children to play and learn, as well as provide support and resources for each other.

Plus, forming relationships with other playgroups in the library and the nearby Maternal and Child Health Services is teaching all local children about diverse families in their community.

Investing in Early Childhood

About 40,000 children from 25,000 Victorian families are involved in a community playgroup at any one time.

Playgroup Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation representing playgroups across the state.  It is funded by membership, fundraising and government grants, including $160,000 a year from the Victorian Government.

Playgroup Victoria Chief Executive Officer Danny Schwarz welcomed the investment by the Victorian Government: "We are delighted to partner with the Government to ensure that all Victorian children and families have access to, and can participate in, community playgroups."

Other categories and winners are:

  • Playgroup Agency of the Year (City of Greater Dandenong)
  • Community Playgroup of the Year (1-4 sessions)
  • Metro(Fam Love Jam Band)
  • Community Playgroup of the Year (1-4 sessions)
  • Regional (Dimboola Playgroup)
  • Community Playgroup of the Year (5+ sessions) (St Andrew's Playgroup Bacchus Marsh)
  • Community Playgroup Leader of the Year (Lara Wallis, Active Dads Playgroup)
  • Supported Playgroup Facilitator of the Year (Belinda Lyons, Thomastown Library Supported Playgroup);
  • Supported Playgroup of the Year (Zoe Support Australia)
  • Playgroup Champion (Sue Wells, City of Greater Geelong)

See: Playgroups
Supported Playgroups
Maternal and Child Health Services
Playgroup Victoria