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Claire Rumble – Plunket Community Development Manager

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Baby laying on tummy on the floor and looking at other babies.

Claire Rumble – Plunket.
June 10, 2012.

Claire Rumble has worked with the wider Plunket team to fulfil a vision of building communities to reconnect families and provide supportive, nurturing environments for babies and young children.

She has also been part of a wider network of organisations which is working together to change NZ society’s view of children and parenting.

What were your early days of growing up like? 

claire rumble, NZ

I grew up in the 1950s and 60s in a close-knit farming community in the Wairarapa where, although people were relatively geographically isolated from one another, they often gathered together for community events and supported one another whenever it was needed. My parents enthusiastically role-modelled the importance of being an active and positive member of the community, my father through belonging to various community and school committees and my mother through providing practical support to families, particularly new mothers – I think she knitted booties, hats and matinee jackets for every new baby born in the district over a period of 50 years. My father also taught his children to be curious and questioning and ‘wonder’ about the world which has resulted in a never-ending life -long learning journey for me.

Describe your career path

I began my working life as a journalist both overseas and in New Zealand. When I had children in the 1990s I joined Playcentre and that began my interest in early childhood education and parenting education.

I completed my Playcentre training to NZ Playcentre Federation Diploma level, worked as a Playcentre tutor training others and also held positions in Playcentre including President of Karori Playcentre and the Wellington Playcentre Association. I worked from home for a number of years, including work with ECE as part of  the Wellington College of Education’s professional development contract in the 1990s and early 2000s, particularly on topics such as extending children’s thinking and positive guidance of behaviour. I completed firstly a B. Ed and then in 2010 a M. Ed (Adult Education), with the thesis topic “What Parenting Education Works for Hard to Reach Families”. In 2007 I joined Plunket as National Parenting Education Adviser before taking on my current position as National Community Development Manager two years later.

I am also a trustee on two charitable trusts. – one which runs the two-yearly Rainbow in My Head Day of workshops for over 800 people from the early childhood education sector in the greater Wellington region and the Nurturing the Future Trust which provides a very effective programme and community hub for very vulnerable families in Greymouth.

What is your current role

As Plunket’s National Community Development Manager, I lead a team which supports Plunket to deliver its community services. These include parenting education programmes, support groups, playgroups, toy libraries and car seat rental schemes and special (often in collaboration with other agencies) projects to target particular groups. I also manage Plunket’s PAFT contract (we have 11 programmes throughout NZ) and our SKIP contract with MSD which is to promote positive parenting throughout the country. Most of the work I do is around parents when they meet in groups.

Who or what put you on the path to your profession?

Being mother to my kids has prompted me to become more interested in children’s development and learning generally, with urging from my family to want to do something that would hopefully contribute to my community. Working at Playcentre has also given me the joy and passion to work with and support new parents.

What is the most interesting aspect about what you do?

I think of my role as a facilitation one – facilitating people and removing barriers to provide support to parents. At any one time I might be helping an area set up a support group for teen parents, deliver parenting education in partnership with an iwi organisation or working with an area to integrate its Well Child Clinical Services, parenting education and playgroups into a single project for a group of vulnerable families.

Are there times when it gets very stressful? 

Busyness, the frustrations of working in a large organisation and of making collaboration ‘work’ can make my job very intense at times. Long baths with a good book and a glass of red wine can help! One little trick I use to help me cope is that I always keep copies of my ‘to do’ lists so I can look back on these and see how much I have achieved.

What would you say would be your biggest achievement?

The thing I am more proud of is that during my time at Plunket my team has helped areas double the number of people accessing parenting education and support to over 70,000 contacts a year. We have also increased hugely the number of collaborative projects which has meant we can reach many more of the so-called ‘hard-to-reach’ families.

And what would be your biggest regret?

I am sorry I didn’t begin the community development work I am doing now until well into my 50s and now, at nearly sixty, I often feel I am running out of time to make a difference to NZ children and families.

For anyone considering a similar career as yours – what gems of advice might you suggest to them?

Follow your passion and don’t be scared of being different, taking risks or failing. Always ask yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen”, usually nothing very bad will happen if you take a chance.

Never stop asking yourself how you can find ways to improve your work.

Would you ever consider changing careers or your role from your current one?

The pay and conditions are not the reason I do this work.

I feel I am on a mission to help support as many young mothers and their babies and young children as possible – my great dream is to help build self-supporting communities around families, especially those which are the most chaotic and with the most vulnerable children. I want to do this until the day I retire (and perhaps as a volunteer and community activist until the day I die).

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