Published: 11 July 2018


Ms  FORREST  (Murchison) - Mr President, an abundance of research highlights the importance of play in children's development and learning across all cultures, particularly in the years from birth to eight years.  Many experts in the area believe it is impossible to disentangle children's play, their learning and their development.  Of course, play does not happen in a vacuum.  It is usually undertaken within a physical and social space and after the age of four to five, much of this play occurs within the school environment.

There is also evidence that one of the greatest benefits of playing is its assistance in developing social confidence and self-regulation.  Playing is linked to the development of resilience and the beginnings of empathy as children begin to understand others' points of view.  This development is essential to a child's future because it assists the child to build relationships, learn to resolve conflicts, negotiate and regulate their behaviour.  Playing is a stress releaser and is often linked to child wellbeing. 

I commend Mr Rockliff for his work as the Minister for Education and Training in supporting a proposed amendment to his 2017 legislation to support, in legislation and in the Education budget, the requirement for all children in our schools from kindergarten to grade 2 to be taught in a play-based, inquiry-led learning environment.  I am aware significant work is going on in this area with human and financial resources being provided to achieve this.  I was particularly impressed to hear about the work being done that focuses not just on formal learning spaces in schools, but also in school grounds and outdoor areas. 

I recently attended a meeting with board members of St Brigid's Catholic School, which is in the heart of Wynyard.  Under principal Gregg Sharman's great leadership, parents, friends, staff and local community members have been consulted in the redesign of the school's outdoor areas.  This has been done to develop an outdoor area that meets the vision of an engaging, safe outdoor play-based learning area. 

I was particularly impressed with the level of engagement during the consultation with the primary stakeholders, the children.  Some of their input has been very enlightening and has highlighted the need to create an outdoor area children can use often as an integral part of their learning.  The input of children will also be sought continuously throughout the project and will assist as construction is undertaken, provoking and inviting ways to encourage exploration, learning and inquiry.  There is nothing like seeing the world through a child's eyes.

An environment that is secure and warm is one that will build trusting relationships so these children can be confident and supported in their explorations, risk-taking and learning.  As this project is being undertaken in a Catholic school in Wynyard, I note and commend the work of the Catholic Education Office. Catholic schools are actively engaged in building and creating these outdoor learning, nature-based environments:  they have been leaders in this area. 

At the meeting I attended I was informed significant work is going on in our public schools, with the Department of Education working hard to ensure the intent of the legislation is delivered to all Tasmanian children.  I was very encouraged by this news because it showed just how able this House is.  We have worked with the Government through the minister and his advisors to do what we know is in the best interests of our young students.  The future of our state depends on these young children. 

I acknowledge the support of members in this House in achieving this outcome.  We know it will greatly assist Tasmanian children and their development of essential life skills.  These outdoor learning spaces will foster the children's creativity and imagination, and prepare them for a world where creative problem-solvers will be essential.  The final outcome of the Education Amendment Act 2017, which took some time to get to, was with the agreement and support of the parliament - the parliament working well together.  Negotiation occurred, compromises were made and further investigation into what was not universally agreed in the originally tabled bill led to an outcome the whole parliament supported.  That outcome will create better outcomes for Tasmania through our most valued resource - our children, our future.

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