Growing learners, growing friendships

26 October 2017

Angela and Alison have become good friends through our Growing Learners program. The program started earlier this year but has already been recognised for its outstanding contribution in the field of early childhood services - a finalist in the 2017 Victorian Early Years Awards, announced this week.


‘It’s great. It’s a smaller group, so it’s intimate,’ says Angela, who takes part with her daughter. ‘It’s like kinder but you’re there as well, It’s more structured than a playgroup. Each time there’s a different topic, like numbers or colours.’

Angela first met Alison and her son at playgroup, but they have all become much closer since taking part in Growing Learners sessions, held twice a week.

‘We stick around afterwards and have a coffee. We let the kids keep playing,’ says Angela.

‘It’s good for my son because he is shy,’ says Alison. ‘He is not comfortable with strangers but with this group, because it’s smaller, his confidence is growing.’

Alison making food with her son

Without family or social networks since they moved to Mernda, in Melbourne’s outer north, each of the women has struggled with isolation and depression. They have each been supported back into the workforce, into part-time and casual roles, through our intensive economic development program. 

Brotherhood Senior Manager of Early Years Program Development, Anita Kochanoff, says Growing Learners is based on our two-generation approach to overcoming poverty and disadvantage, by working with parents and children simultaneously.

‘Learning sessions include the parent and child together. Children are learning from the time they are born, so the more parents know about child development and how to support their children’s learning every day, the better children will do when they reach school.’

‘An age-appropriate curriculum of play-based learning activities are offered during the weekly sessions, and also in one-on-one sessions at home. There are also groups for mothers and activities for fathers that create social support and connection. The multi-component structure is what research has shown leads to a lasting impact for children of disadvantaged families.’

Growing Learners runs at centres in Mernda, Craigieburn and Fitzroy.

Read more about our work in Mernda, at the Jindi Family and Community Centre.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) acknowledges and understands its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and recognises that all children and young people have the right to be treated with respect and care, and to be safe from all forms of abuse. BSL has a zero tolerance towards child abuse. Read the official statement signed by the Executive Director.

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The Brotherhood of St Laurence acknowledges and recognises the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we live and work, and we pay our respects to their Elders both past and present.