Smalltalk offshoot named as Victorian awards finalist
Brimbank Council’s innovative extension of the Parenting Research Centre’s smalltalk initiative was a finalist at the 2017 Victorian Early Years Awards. The Victorian Government awards recognise services and early childhood professionals who are leaders in strengthening services for children and families.
The council developed an extension of smalltalk, called Still Talking, designed to build on families’ progress. The Parenting Research Centre developed smalltalk as a set of evidence-based strategies that help parents to build their confidence to enhance their young children’s learning at home. They particularly benefit disadvantaged parents.
Victorian local government areas deliver the program in supported playgroups. Funded facilitators convene the groups and coordinate activities such as reading together and engaging in interesting activities. This helps parents 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.”
Benefits to families
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. They share a connection through smalltalk that gives them the best chance at building 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.
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