Parliamentarians wept when We are Australian played out after the motion to legalise same sex marriage passed. Even those who were against the change could not help but be moved by the swell of emotion that rose up and spread across the Australian landscape. And, all the while, a rainbow playgroup in the North Fitzroy library quietly bonded and burgeoned.
Early in 2017, the kernel of inspiration had come from Sydney’s rainbow playgroup in Erskineville and the fabulous rainbow playgroup in Thornbury, which had recently closed after 13 years due to the members children starting school. Sally Beattie wanted to find a space where queer families with babies and toddlers could meet in a safe, fun and non-judgemental environment.
One day Sally heard of a new library opening with playgroup spaces and started investigating the Bargoonga Nganjin site in North Fitzroy. The idea for a rainbow playgroup had been floated. City of Yarra’s Playgroups Team Leader, Jacinta Harper, was very interested in the community-led proposal to establish a Rainbow Playgroup.
“I am really proud. I am surprised at how well it took off. I mean, there must have been a need. I think it is for the parents to connect with each other and… we want our kids to grow up knowing that other families are like our families.”
“It’s really nice for them to have seen that there are all of these other people who also have two mums or whatever configuration it may be -we have got so many different types of families in the group.”
“I already had fourteen friends who were rainbow families so that was the beginning of the playgroup and then we started a Facebook page and the rest is history. Now we have 130 members.”
The playgroup takes place in a big airy space in the new Bargoonga Nganjin North Fitzroy Library that runs along the tram line on St Georges Rd, to the north of trendy Brunswick Street. Edinburgh gardens are right next door, across the road is a fantastic gourmet stocked supermarket and an array of cute coffee shops border the area. All in all, the playgroup is in a wonderful setting for families.
The members are an understanding bunch. The playgroup runs for four hours in order to fit in with everyone’s nap time. The library is well set up with toys and story time runs concurrently with the playgroup on a Wednesday.
“Most of us are one child families so the beauty of playgroup is being able to come and have multi-age play so the kids are actually with four year olds and babies and interacting like that- almost as you would as a family.”
Social media had a big influence on pulling the playgroup together. People come from far and wide, travelling from Reservoir, Thomastown, Thornbury and Coburg.
“Most of our families come from the outer north, even though it is called the inner north playgroup, it is just where it’s situated. And then there’s some in walking distance from the library from Carlton and Fitzroy and we’ve got people even from the south side, East Hampton, so pretty big range.”
Although social media helped the group come together, it became increasingly hard to navigate during the plebiscite.
“Anyone who was online was seeing it in their Facebook feed, all of these terrible things that the No Campaign were putting up and you were just feeling really vulnerable being a family that had to talk to their kids about that or feel that you are in the world being judged like that, so it was amazing having a supportive group to flesh those ideas out with and sometimes it was just really nice to come and feel that you did not have to talk about it there.”
On the day that the YES vote was announced, members of the playgroup went into the city for the announcement which they described as “amazing.”
“It was such a hot day and there were about 12 of us there together to hear the announcement and so it was incredibly jubilant.”
In order to escape the heat, the group went to story time at the State Library.
“They sang the Rainbow song, “the red and yellow and pink and green” just for us which was so nice. They said there’s lots of rainbow families here today we will sing the rainbow song and we sang it twice so it was actually really special.”
The playgroup endeavours to create a space where people feel comfortable, identifying as LGBTIQ plus.
“The plus bit is anything else- non hetero-normative I guess- so they might be in a polyamorous relationship with kids and that in some ways is stigmatized by others so it is nice to be in a space where others don’t question that. We have gay, transgender, bi-sexual and non-binary parents who just want to be somewhere that they don’t have to explain themselves and the kids can play happily together."
Only days before same sex marriage was legalised, Inner North Rainbow Playgroup was voted as Victoria’s Playgroup of the Year. For those in the playgroup, it reinforced their self-pride and allowed them to celebrate the strength of their diversity. For the community, it meant equality and respect, shared joy and happiness.
“I have only come across supportive people and I heard that Melbourne voted 83% yes so I think that we live in quite a nice bubble.”
The families and children have come together at playgroup. They are helping to paint a bright future, using all of the colours.
Article by Sinead Halliday