Family identity and community playgroups

Stream: Relationships, parenting and wellbeing
Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 10.45 am – 12.25 pm


This paper reports on research that examines how family and parenting identity influences parents’ choices about and participation in community playgroups. Identity is multiple, fluid and complex, and Australia is a country of wide cultural and language diversity, with LGBTI identity the subject of social and political debate. Playgroups are traditionally location based, but there are now a substantial number of identity-based community playgroups, organised on a volunteer grass-roots model. The research uses interviews with parents who attend playgroup, summary data from the membership database and interviews with leaders of an Australian playgroup peak body. The findings are that playgroups support the development of parental identity. Social support is often identity specific, so many parents seek a playgroup where they feel connected through particular aspects of their identity. Parents’ orientation to location plays a role in playgroup choice. Some parents use playgroups, particularly identity playgroups, not only to create a culturally safe space for their children, but also to pass on cultural and linguistic knowledge and practices. Location-based playgroups can have a normative Christian, English language based culture that acts to exclude some families, some of whom then seek identity playgroups. However, identity playgroups can also draw boundaries that exclude those they seek to include. The paper discusses the implications for early childhood and playgroups policy, the practices of playgroup peak bodies, and the problems inherent in reconciling the two.


Cris Townley (Presenter), SPRC, UNSW
Cris Townley is a PhD student at the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW, and a researcher in the Genders and Sexualities Research Group at Western Sydney University.