PLEASE NOTE: Due to unprecedented events surrounding Corona Virus/COVID-19

The Playgroup Conference has been postponed until further notice.

For further information click here. Please keep abreast of Playgroup Victoria email communications for further updates.

We warmly invite you to The Playgroup Conference 2020!

This years conference will be continuing the overall theme of Playgroup Makes a Difference with a focus on ‘Inclusion’. The conference will provide opportunities to engage with timely knowledge and research. Join us as we exchange ideas and share practice wisdom.

This years event will be held at The Hawthorn Arts Centre – a grand historical building very conveniently located, with easy access to public transport. See below for further details.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Conference Theme Overview

Playgroup naturally brings children, carers, and families together, creating and supporting meaningful connections and relationships within and beyond playgroup. How do these building blocks of our community encourage, support and promote experiences of inclusion? Is it possible that playgroup provides a place for inclusion that results in an enduring influence for our communities and society?

This years conference is an opportunity for you to contribute to conversations and be a visionary of playgroup practice. Help us ensure that acceptance and equity are standard, and not an exception in playgroup – children and families first early years’ experience. Families timely and opportune involvement in playgroup can have a lasting and far reaching impact on children’s learning, development and wellbeing, positive family functioning and quality of life. The scope of impact extends into the broader community, through increased social capital. Playgroups “… ideally create a community that values diversity and includes people as they are” (Hyde, Robert and Conway, 2010). Inclusive practices support the gathering of individual that enable “shared understandings of various contexts or life situations that are interpreted from relationships and collaboration” (Keefe and Carrington, 2007, p. 28).

“We should acknowledge differences, we should greet differences, until differences make no difference.”

– Dr Adela A Allen

Keynote Speakers

Alistair Gibbs 

Alistair is currently an Early Learning Manager for Gowrie Victoria and is also fortunate to be the Vice President of the Victorian Branch of Early Childhood Australia. He strives to use his various roles to challenge and empower, with integrity and respect, the voice of self and others specifically in challenging how we approach Anti- Bias themes within early childhood. 

Conference presentation: Inclusion – From Voice to Action

We can talk about inclusion, we can listen to others perspectives or journey’s already taken but how do we kick start our own movement and how do we get everyone involved? This keynote will give opportunities to reflect on different ways to connect and light the passion of Anti-Bias within your life and practice. 

Fadzi Whande 

Fadzi Whande is an award-winning Global Diversity and Inclusion Strategist and Social Justice Advocate with experience working across the not for profit, government and business sectors in Africa, Australia, UK and USA. Her work primarily focuses on addressing systemic and institutionalised barriers faced by historically underrepresented groups. 

Conference presentation: The power of story to develop and cultivate inclusive spaces  

Fadzi’s presentation will inspire you to be more socially conscious to the lived experience of others. Having been labelled a minority all of her life because of her gender and race, she will draw on her personal experience and share how we can all become inclusion champions. 

Dr Sally Smith 

Dr Sally Smith has a background in research including at the University of Oxford where she worked on an evaluation of the Peep Learning Together Programme. This led her to change direction in her career and join Peeple who develop and deliver strengths-based ways to help parents to provide the best start for their children.

Conference presentation: Inclusion in practice 

This presentation will share ideas to help practitioners be as inclusive as possible in their practice, including the importance of reflection and the use of the ORIM framework as a tool to see, value, and build on family strengths. 

Professor Emeritus Dorothy Scott OAM

Dorothy is an honorary professorial fellow in social work at the University of Melbourne and an adjunct professor at the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia. Dorothy has worked in the fields of mental health, and child and family services, and in the 1970s pioneered the development of sexual assault counselling services, and specialist services for women with post-partum psychiatric disorders and their infants. Her research and policy development has mostly been in the fields of child protection, and early childhood services. 

Dorothy Scott will be opening the conference.

Session Presenters

Emma Watson

City of Ballarat  –  Supported Playgroup Team Leader 

Emma has worked in the families and children’s sector for over 15 years, working in childcare, coordinating Parent Place and in Supported Playgroups. Emma is passionate about working with vulnerable families and working in partnership with other Early Years professionals to provide the best outcomes for children and families. Emma is a mother of 3 children and believes this helps to build a good rapport.

Amy Treyvaud 

City of Ballarat  –  Coordinator Early Years Partnerships  

Amy has worked in the early years for about 8 years, with a significant amount of that time spent working in and with playgroups. Amy’s first experience of playgroup was attending one with her own children, where she experienced the positive impacts of playgroup firsthand. Amy is passionate about equitable access and thinks that playgroups are a fantastic platform to support families to build their capacity.

Rakhi Khanna 

Yarra Ranges Council  –  Team Leader Supported Playgroups & Early Years Community Support   

Rakhi is the Team Leader of Supported Playgroups & Early Years Community Support at Yarra Ranges Council. Her very supportive hubby and a loving daughter inspired her to venture into the field of community sector moving from being a qualified Accountant. Rakhi has a background in Early Childhood and Community Development with over 15 years of experience promoting Diversity & Inclusion.

Tracey Egan

City of Monash  –  Equity Officer 

Tracey is the Gender Equity Coordinator at the Monash City Council. She holds a Bachelor of Public Health & Health Promotion, Certificate IV in Training & Assessment and a Graduate Certificate in Health Policy. She has worked in gender equity and preventing violence against women in both Community Health & Women’s Health sectors prior to local government. In her current role Tracey has worked across a number of settings to promote gender equity in Monash including sporting clubs, schools, early years, faith and Council as a workplace 

Nicole Dalgleish 

City of Monash  –  Coordinator, Playgroup and Kindergarten Engagement   

Nicole has over 30 years’ experience in children’s services, both in the private and community owned sector. Nicole is a passionate advocate for raising the quality of education and care, and also for providing services and supports that engage and empower parents. 

Karen Dimmock

Association for Children with Disability – CEO

Karen is the CEO of the Association for Children with Disability (ACD). ACD is the leading organisation advocating for children with disability and their families in Victoria. Karen has had a long career in the community sector and is the parent of a son with a disability. 

Aseel Tayah 

Artist and Activist 

Aseel is a Palestinian artist who was born in Jerusalem. Her life encouraged her to make art that represents what an Arab Muslim woman face in this world. For Aseel, art is an act of resistance and a tool to survive. Her main focus is empowering women through art. As the first artist in her community, Aseel initiated children and youth platforms to challenge the way people think about art and recently started the first group of 10 Toy libraries in Palestine. 

Jess Higgins

Sing&Grow  –  Vic/Tas Manager 

Jess is the Vic/Tas manager for Sing&Grow Australia and director of Jig Music Therapy in Geelong and Ballarat. As a mother and a Registered Music Therapist, Jess is passionate about using music to strengthen relationships and build capacity in all children and caregivers.

Dheepa Jeyapalan 

Save the Children Australia  –  Program Advisor

Dheepa is a public health dietitian and specifically interested in how lifelong love of healthy foods can be established in the first 2 years of life. She currently leads a program called Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, which aims to improve the eating and active play habits of families attending supported playgroups. 

Judith Myers 

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute – Senior Project Officer 

Judith is an experienced paediatric dietitian, nutritionist, researcher and public health practitioner. She is currently consulting on a project scaling up a nutrition approach in Save the Children’s Play2Learns across Australia. She has collaborated with stakeholders within the playgroup sector for over 10 years and is passionate about capacity-building and improving outcomes for families. 

Dr Joanne Tarasuik

Playgroup Victoria  –  Research Manager

Joanne’s role at Playgroup Victoria is to illustrate that playgroups aren’t just for fun; create credibility for playgroups with stakeholders and policy makers. Jo also translates research into practical advice for playgroups, researches the playgroup platform, and informs evaluative processes.  Jo’s research interests include cognitive development, the first 1000 days, play-based learning, enhancing the home-learning environment, and helping families to support their children’s development.


Nic Russell 

South East Yoga & Wellbeing and Chisolm Institute  –  Educator, Yoga Instructor and Meditation Facilitator 

Nic created South East Yoga and Wellbeing in 2016 and has been practising yoga for 22 years. She implements her Yoga Play program in kindergartens and facilitates yoga to mothers and their children through her Earth Mother Yoga classes. Nic enjoys supporting educators learn more about yoga with children, through her workshops. She also guides a weekly meditation. 

Jenni Singleton 

City of Wodonga  –  Supported Playgroup and Family Wellbeing Worker   

Jenni Singleton has worked in Supported Playgroups with Wodonga Council for the past nine years. She has a passion for working with vulnerable families with young children – strengthening community connections to build resilience. She has a keen interest in exploring how to overcome barriers to engagement. 

Niquita Bekker 

Maroondah City Council  –  Supported Playgroup Facilitator  

Niquita has a background in Community Development. She has worked with Cultural And Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities for 20 years. Her work has included supporting newly arrived refugee families in case management, delivering cultural awareness training to service providers and delivering group programs which includes playgroups. 

Winnie Bridie

The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA)  –  Senior Project Officer

Winnie Bridie is a Senior Project Officer in the Projects and Reform Unit at VACCA, where she has worked since 2017. She coordinated the development of the smalltalk big yarns resources in partnership with the Parenting Research Centre in 2018. Winnie has experience doing both policy and project work in the community, Aboriginal, children and youth sectors.

Rhoda Bol 

Yarra City Council  – Biculture Inclusion Worker 

Rhoda Bol is from South Sudan, and was raised in Australia. Rhoda is a Bicultural Inclusion worker at City of Yarra. Her passion is working in the community services sector and justice department. Rhoda’s education background is also in the community services sector and the justice department. She has worked as a CALD Domestic Violence support worker and also as a Drug and Alcohol Youth worker.

Coming to the conference and looking for somewhere to stay?

We have partnered with Quest Hawthorn to offer a reduced rate of $189 a night for conference delegates and presenters.

Bookings can be made by contacting the venue directly directly on:


Tel: +61 3 8803 7700  Mobile: +61 423 541 456


For further information head to:

Interested in attending the conference?

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