Narelle is one of our Early Years Community Connectors in Acacia Ridge and Rocklea, Queensland. As an important part of the Community Connector Early Years program, her role is to lead a sustainable strategy to increase disadvantaged families’ participation in childcare.

“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,” Narelle says. “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. Knowing our service is able to give back to the community and support families in their journey is very rewarding.”

Narelle smiling
A recent photo of Narelle.

What is your role at The Benevolent Society? When did you join us?

Narelle: I started working here in 2019 as an Administration Officer at Acacia Ridge.  I thoroughly enjoyed the contact I had with the families and watching the children grow and prosper coming to our service.  

Being able to share our program with new families and seeing them attend our playgroup was very rewarding. 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.

What is the Community Connector – Early Years program? What are the benefits of the community connection services/ program? How can it help people?

Narelle: We know that that Acacia Ridge/Rocklea areas have a low percentage of attendance in early years education, and almost 30 per cent of children are developmentally vulnerable on at least one domain; 17 per cent on at least two domains, this is where my focus lies.  

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.  

My first step is improving the community and families awareness of the importance of early education in their child’s development. This is done by guiding families through the process from sourcing a high-quality early education provider, 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.  

During this journey I have the resources to link individual families and children with holistic support through other organizations such as our Early Years places, Child Health, NDIS, Early childhood approach, Speech Therapy, Baby Give Back, GIFF program etc.

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. 

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.

How and who can access the Community Connector program?

Narelle: Any families in the Acacia Ridge/Rocklea areas can access the service by attending our playgroups at our collocated early years center, contacting me directly via phone/email or referred by other staff and neighboring organizations/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.

What has been the impact of the program in your experience?

Narelle: Any interaction with a family is a success; creating an environment where parents/carers feel they can tell their story and allowing me to listen and share our resources is a positive result.  

For me, my first success was helping a family navigate the enrolment process into prep. One day before school started, they realized they hadn’t officially enrolled their child. I organized 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.

For more information about the Community Connection Service that Narelle runs, you can download the Community Connector Family brochure here or visit this page on our website.