Mary Hajistassi is Backbone Leader of South Australia’s Together in the South, an Opportunity Child partner community.
“Here at Together in the South, we’re about action. Action to ensure that every child is safe, healthy, active, ready to learn and engaging positively.
Our steering group made the decision to focus on one strategy in 2018: to increase attendance and ongoing participation in playgroups. This strategic focus is based on data commissioned by community partner Playgroup SA and community consultation.
We ran focus groups and had one-on-one conversations with families to tap into the wisdom of local people. We then shared that data with community members who came together to make sense of it. What they saw has informed the Together in the South 2018 action plan. There are 49 playgroups in our area, run by 35 organisations across nine suburbs.
It was at a focus group where I met Jess. This is her story…”
Jess is a young mum living in Christie Downs, a suburb in Adelaide’s south
“For me, I see the sense of possibility in my community. Being a part of Together in the South has given me a sense of inspiration, that nothing can stop me now!
I came to a playgroup through my community support worker. She connected me with the Learning Together program in my area. I didn’t know about playgroups before then. I was trying to finish Year 12 and I had a young baby. As soon as I started taking my baby daughter to playgroup I saw how good it was for my baby and me.
You can have a conversation, your child is stimulated and learning. They see so many new things, they learn so much and it takes a huge stress off parents who can get together in a neutral space.
Now I take my second child to playgroup and he comes home exhausted!
I could see there were a lot of young mums living near me who would also benefit from joining a playgroup. They just needed a bit of motivation. So I started door knocking down the block, every day. Parents might not come along to playgroup straight away, it can be a bit daunting. But I reassure them and they come when they are ready. I’m there to remind them, connect them and get the word out.
I finished Year 12 and was nominated for a youth award in my local area. Now my voice is being heard through Together in the South. It has helped me spread my wings so much – I’ve stood in front of a group of professionals and talked about what parents and children get out of playgroup. I’m sharing ideas and having a say in how to get more people involved.”
About the writer: Jess is a young mother of two children living in Christie Downs, SA. Jess is a part of Together in the South. Together in the South is working in nine suburbs across the City of Onkaparinga. These nine suburbs are based on analysis of AEDC data which demonstrates higher rates of childhood vulnerability when compared to other areas across the City of Onkaparinga and South Australia.