Good Beginnings is a national children’s charity which began 15 years ago and aims to build better outcomes for children and their families in vulnerable communities.

A mother and her daughter spend time together at Good Beginnings.
A mother and her daughter spend time together at Good Beginnings.

Providing free parenting and early childhood programs among its list of benefits, the Adelaide arm of the charity is based in Elizabeth Grove and has made a difference to many lives.

Site Manager Petra Waterman has worked with Good Beginnings for two years and, with a small group of part time staff, connects with kids and families to make their lives a bit more manageable.

From breakfast clubs to playgroups, cooking classes for dads and anti-bullying programs, the government funded organisation reaches out with genuinely helpful resources to people in need.

“We work in disadvantaged or vulnerable communities,” Waterman says. “In Adelaide, we are in Elizabeth Grove but we’d like to be down south eventually as well.”

Operating out of Elizabeth Grove Primary School, Waterman, whose background is in early childhood education and inclusion, says funding that keeps Good Beginnings doing their important work is reasonable, but they could always use more.

We get most of our funding from the Department of Social Services. We do take donations and sometimes we have philanthropic gifts,” she says.

“If people wanted to get involved and help, fundraising would be fantastic. We are also sponsored by businesses. The Reject Shop is a sponsor and so is Muffin Break.”

The charity is funded to provide successful programs like the group for dads, which Waterman says has been a great opportunity for men to learn new skills, develop support networks and talk about their kids.

Father and son read together at Families Week.
Father and son read together at Families Week.

“We run a dads cooking group and there’s quite a few dads in that! It’s been really effective,” she says.

“They talk about issues they’re having with their kids, parenting stuff, relationship or custody stuff – lots of them are single dads doing it tough on their own. We have a lot of single dads where the mums have left. They chat about all sorts while they’re chopping and stirring.”

As well as the groups for dads, Waterman says Good Beginnings has been providing a highly successful group for boys at Elizabeth Grove Primary School, which has had some incredible results.

“We run a group for four boys in the school with some challenging behaviours. We’ve had big success with that group because the student counsellor said she was seeing the kids two-three times a day, now she sees them once a week; one of them, she hasn’t seen all term!” she says.

The boys group meets for one hour a week, but Waterman says that time together can tide them over for the rest of the week.

The most recent project for the group has been working together on a unique sculpture to represent the new qualities the boys are developing.

“At the moment we’re dismantling computer equipment and while we’re doing that we talk about stuff like resilience and persistence, respect and anger management,” Waterman says.

“Once they’ve dismantled the equipment, we’re making a sculpture out of it to represent their resilience. We’ll display it at school and invite the parents to see it.

“One kid had a printer and it had so many screws in it and we’ve been joking that when he builds the sculpture, he just has to glue down all of those screws because he’s been so resilient unscrewing them all!”

The boys have expressed to their teachers how important the group is to them and the results speak for themselves in the marked improvement of their behaviour.

As well as the good work they do with kids like the boys group, Good Beginnings run an anti-bullying program in schools from which 89% of participating children said they had a better understanding of what bullying is, 94% of children said the program helped them to know what to do about bullying, and 92% of parents said the program had given them a guide for assisting their children to resolve bullying issues.

Waterman says the “Bully Proof” program is popular because it is multifaceted and engaging.

“There’s a session in every classroom with kids about why people bully, how it makes them feel and what them can do about it, and for older kids there’s the cyber bullying stuff.

“There’s also a poster competition so the kids design a poster that represents anti-bullying and then there’s an art exhibition so all of the posters are displayed. Parents can come look at them and then the kids vote on which ones they think are the best and we make badges out of the posters of the six finalists,” she says.

The program has support from Central Districts Football Club which provides prize packs, and Good Beginnings spend up to a semester on site delivering the program so they can be connected with the school community.

“We’re there for a term to two terms so we’re a presence in the school. We’re at assemblies presenting awards and we try to get the teachers on board so it’s not just us doing it. They nominate who’s been a good bully buster that week,” Waterman says.

There is also the breakfast club, which allows the kids to start their day in a positive way, and a playgroup at Blakeview that is an excellent opportunity for parents to meet other parents and discuss any issues they’re having

Good Beginnings is a vital program doing some exceptional work in vulnerable communities.

Kids can play and learn at Good Beginnings.
Kids can play and learn at Good Beginnings.

To help out or donate to keep their excellent work going, you can visit the website to find out how.

Waterman says they would like to get into home visiting and strengthen the programs to continue giving children good beginnings to their day and to their lives.

“Our aim is that every child in Australia has a good beginning in life. Lots of them don’t, so we run programs for the child and the parent, coming from the headspace that happy healthy parents make happy healthy children,” she says.

Story by Libby Parker

Photos courtesy of Good Beginnings and used with permission

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