smalltalk offshoot named as finalist in Victorian Early Years Awards

Brimbank Council’s innovative extension of the Parenting Research Centre’s smalltalk initiative has been recognised as a finalist at the 2017 Victorian Early Years Awards. The awards were held in October by the Victorian Government to recognise services and early childhood professionals who are leaders in strengthening the services delivered to children and families.

The council developed an extension of smalltalk called Still Talking, which was designed to build on the progress made by families who had already taken part in the smalltalk supported playgroups. smalltalk was developed by the Parenting Research Centre as a set of evidence-based strategies that help parents - particularly those experiencing disadvantage - to build their confidence to enhance their young children’s learning at home.

It is delivered within supported playgroups in local government areas in Victoria. Funded facilitators convene the groups and coordinate activities such as reading together and engaging in interesting activities so that parents can gain skills in an informal way.

Brimbank Council’s smalltalk Program Co-coordinator Julie McKenzie said the motivation behind Still Talking was to ensure families who had made gains through smalltalk continued to benefit and did not “fall through the net”.

“We want to tap in before we lose them – we want them to increase in confidence and know that they are being respectfully recognised for the positive impact they are having on their home environment.”

Senior Implementation Specialist at the Parenting Research Centre Vince Lagioia agreed: “Maintaining connections with community playgroups can be difficult if families are vulnerable and facing challenges so what Brimbank has done with Still Talking is very forward thinking.

smalltalk itself is also attracting more interest as federal funding requirements are driving an increased demand for evidence-based programs – and we are fielding an increasing number of enquiries from agencies.”

Unlike smalltalk, Still Talking is not a facilitated parent group, Ms McKenzie said. But a smalltalk coordinator does check in with groups to offer brief guidance or support.

The benefits for the families are many, including that they share a connection through smalltalk and can continue to have the best chance at building solid and beneficial interactions with their children.

“We are honoured to be a finalist in these awards because they highlight the importance of our work in supporting parents to build their capacity and their confidence,” Ms McKenzie said.

Brimbank Council is now talking to other local government areas interested in replicating the Still Talking model.