The Spotlight on... series focuses on some of the leading figures in Queensland's community services sector and related agencies. We ask them to talk about the work they are doing and how they see the future of the sector.
Leonie Wallwork is the Chief Executive Officer of Playgroup Queensland. Founded in 1973 by Queensland families to connect, engage and share in the early stages of parenthood, Playgroup Queensland continues forty years on, working to empower families to support each other and advance their child’s development through the fundamentals of play.
Leonie talks about the role of Playgroup Queensland in working with and advocating for the children and families of Queensland, as well as some of the innovative and collaborative projects they are currently working on.
Hello I'm Leonie Wallwork, CEO from Playgroup Queensland.
Playgroup Queensland works with a number of vulnerable and disadvantaged families to provide opportunities for parents and carers. Our particular role is bringing families together within communities and making sure they have that support network and it's a soft entry point to enable referral pathways to other services.
Having the breadth and depth of early intervention and prevention programs makes us more agile and adaptable to the needs of the different communities. They're all unique in their own way. WithpPlaygroup it tends to be organic, and take on the nature and shape of the community in which it applies to, so it's not a very prescriptive model at all, it's a very fluid model. We're already located in over seventy per cent of postcodes throughout Queensland. So for us it's making sure we've got reach in all communities. Far North Queensland is the big focus for us. Up into some of the…we work in some of the communities now so we would like to extend that, especially where there are no other services until a child gets to school. So having playgroups within the school, making the school the community hub and those types of things. So you know Playgroup's a vital connector when you've got social isolation. We also have a national program which is the Sing and Grow music therapy program. So we help families nationwide.
But I guess where we see our role is as the voice for parents and families in some of these forums when we get round the table and looking at policy and future direction. I particularly appreciate the opportunity for example the Futures forum that QCOSS runs those type of forums are so valuable in bringing you know talking heads together I guess and sharing ideas and being a part of the various reference groups and advisory groups not only in government but with some of the other areas. I'm thinking of the Puuya Foundation learning circle that happens up on Lockhart River. It's an incredibly valuable forum for talking about local issues within community. I think one of the key things is that there are the levels of vulnerability and disadvantage you can't just pigeonhole it, it's across communities. It's being there regardless of what the person's or the family's need is that you know you work with that identified need as a group.
For us our focus is really on capacity building within communities but also through strengthening families and that parental confidence. So I think if you build parental or family confidence and their parenting and you strengthen communities then they're going to be more resilient and able to adapt to the many, many changes that they're facing. We are in this together with other community service providers I think that's where we as the sector will get our strength if we support each other. And I think not to be fearful of this air of contestability and competition and see it as an opportunity for us to work together. We may not always agree on the service delivery but I think we've all got a common purpose and that's for our families and communities at the end of the day.