Play Australia farewells Executive Director Barbara Champion after 25 years of service
The Sector > Research > Allied Fields > Play Australia farewells Executive Director Barbara Champion after 25 years of service

Play Australia farewells Executive Director Barbara Champion after 25 years of service

by Freya Lucas

November 15, 2022

Play Australia Executive Director Barbara Champion will retire from her role at the Play Australia 2022 AGM after 25 years of dedicated service to the organisation. 


The following piece is extracted from a longer form note of thanks to Ms Champion, prepared by Play Australia Board Member Barbara Chancellor. 


“Those of us who have worked alongside Barb have experienced first hand her ability to foster respectful and enduring working relationships,” the letter begins. 


“Barb always knows someone, somewhere, who is happy and willing to help – something the organisation has benefited from enormously over the years.”


Ms Champion has led Play Australia through a major expansion, taking it from a Victorian-based entity to national, echoing the original aim of the organisation from its inception over 100 years ago, when it was then known as the Guild of Play. 


The original aim of the Guild was to convince communities to provide playgrounds for children. In August 1998, when Ms Champion was employed by the Playground and Recreation Association of Victoria (PRAV) the organisation was “on its last legs”. 


“My predecessor Gerrard had died after a long illness and we had eight members,” she recalls. 


“The Committee of Management nearly closed it down but their strong commitment to the importance of advocating for children’s play saw them persist,” she added. 


“When I began, I really had to start again. They wanted PRAV to be a very different organisation with a strong commitment to play. There was a lot of work to do.”


Ms Champion embraced those challenges and grew PRAV into “a vibrant community, ready to adapt to growing community needs”. 

“The major growth during my time has been taking the play agenda beyond playgrounds and standards development,” she continued.

In 2015, the organisation took on its current name, Play Australia, deeping its relationship with some organisations, and developing new relationships with others, most notably with the South Australian Government.


Educating the public about children’s play is a vital role of Play Australia and an area Ms Champion notes as being particularly significant is the importance of risk in play. With playgrounds and equipment becoming increasingly safer, new problems have emerged as children become bored with what is on offer. 


Through sharing its “sensible views” about risk management, designers and manufacturers have begun to respond in creative ways which have enhanced the quality of children’s play experiences. 


Alongside this, Play Australia has shared new understandings through training programs and information has filtered out, leaving the general public “much more aware of the benefits of risk taking for children”.


“Today children’s play is not always prioritised in early childhood settings, schools and public open spaces and with increasingly urbanised lives, there are significant health and wellbeing consequences for children,” Ms Champion said.


As the organisation continues its growth, Play Australia will remain an advocate for every child’s right to play, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. 


“In this challenge we join our international colleagues through the International Play Association (IPA) and have been regularly active in this forum for many years,” Ms Chancellor continued.


“Barb Champion is a familiar face at the IPA conferences and has seen them as an opportunity to bring Play Australia to the world and the world to Play Australia.”


Reflecting on her legacy, Ms Champion said she considered herself blessed to have the opportunity to be involved in the organisation. 


“How lucky and fortunate I have been to work with such an amazing bunch of people,” she shared. 


“I have been so happy working for 25 years and this astonishes me and it has been so professionally stimulating and rewarding.’


The Sector extends its congratulations to Ms Champion on her stewardship, wishing her a peaceful and prosperous retirement. 


To learn more about the work of Play Australia, please see here. Pictured is the current Play Australia Board, with Ms Champion in the bottom right, wearing purple. 

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