Narelle shares her story about being an early years connector
Benevolent Society employee Narelle has an important role in the communities of Acacia Ridge and Rocklea, Queensland, leading a sustainable strategy to increase disadvantaged families’ participation in early childhood and aligned community services.
Narelle recently shared her story, speaking from the perspective not only of a resident of the community for more than 30 years, but also from her role as a professional in the broader early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.
As part of the Community Connector Early Years program, one of the most rewarding aspects of her role is being able to give back to the community and support families in their journey.
“I lived locally for over 30 years and attended the Acacia Ridge High School which is now the Primary School; my own children go to a local school as well,” she shared.
“I’ve seen many changes to the area but after all this time one thing that hasn’t changed are the needs of our families.”
She began working for The Benevolent Society in 2019 as an Administration Officer at Acacia Ridge, where she “thoroughly enjoyed” the contact she had with the families and watching the children grow and prosper through coming to the service.
“Being able to share our program with new families and seeing them attend our playgroup was very rewarding,” she said.
“So when the role for the Community Connector Early Years – Child and Family became available in 2022, I was delighted to take on this new position.”
The Community Connector – Early Years program is especially important for the Acacia Ridge/Rocklea areas given that have a low percentage of attendance in early years education, and almost 30 per cent of children are developmentally vulnerable on at least one AEDC domain, and 17 per cent on at least two domains.
“My role is to go into the community to identify and support families that are needing help enrolling their child into early education facilities e.g., kindergarten, childcare, playgroups and prep as well as identify and mitigate any barriers to participation in early education,” Narelle explained.
“My first step is improving the community and families’ awareness of the importance of early education in their child’s development.”
To do this, Narelle guides families through the process from sourcing a high-quality early education provider, and supporting them in the enrolment process; this could be filling out forms, Centrelink information, transport needs or just upskilling family’s knowledge on the process and benefits of early education for their child.
“My goal is to create and sustain relationships with other stakeholders within the community including schools, childcare centres, non-government organizations where we can share resources that will confront barriers such as transportation, language barriers and education about child development for families,” she added.
“Building these relationships will allow the community to work together to address community barriers to childcare participation and ultimately deliver increased childcare attendance.
As a community worker I attend local events and gatherings to provide information and link in with families who are not engaged with any services.”
Any families in the Acacia Ridge/Rocklea areas can access the service by attending The Benevolent Society playgroups, by contacting Narelle directly via phone/email or through being referred by other staff and neighboring organisations/community stakeholders.
“I’m available to build community understanding of childcare, identify vulnerable families needing childcare and build referral pathways to support families’ access to childcare and soft entries into services,” Narelle said.
One of the biggest markers of success has been creating an environment where parents/carers feel they can tell their story.
“For me, my first success was helping a family navigate the enrolment process into prep,” she shared.
“One day before school started, they realised they hadn’t officially enrolled their child. I organised an interview, supplied transportation to and from the interview, assisted in completing the forms and accompanied them to the meeting.”
“I have since touched base with this family and the child is loving school and thriving in her new environment.”
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