Playgroups: Moving in from the margins of history, policy and feminism

Cris Townley
University of New South Wales

Playgroups began in Australia in the early 1970s, at the same time as significant changes in early childhood education and care (ECEC) began taking place. This paper explores how early playgroups were positioned in the ECEC policy, and the experiences of playgroup organisers in New South Wales. Methods used were documentary analysis of Project Care (Social Welfare Commission, 1974) and interviews with key players. Findings were that playgroups grew rapidly in response to grassroots demand from mothers wanting their children to learn through quality play, besides the demand for adult social support. Since Project Care was strongly influenced by feminist lobbying and the objective of enabling women to engage in paid work—and playgroups relied on mothers to deliver the service—playgroups were an uneasy fit in the ECEC policy. Although Project Care integrated playgroups into its recommendations for ECEC services, subsequent funding was at a low level. Today, ECEC services would benefit from a strengthening of the community playgroups model.

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 43 Number 2 June 2018.

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