Debbie Buhajiar


Debbie Buhajiar is an Early Childhood Facilitator with the Uniting Burnside Brighter Futures Macarthur Program. She has a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) and has over 20 years experience in the field. Debbie is passionate about working holistically with families to get the best possible outcomes.


Research shows that one of the most significant determinants of a child’s development and well-being is the quality of care provided by their parents. This is not a new research finding. The father of attachment theory, Bowlby stated the following in 1951: “If a community values its children it must cherish their parents’’. Despite this research, in Australia there has not been a significant investment in supporting parents during their child’s first 1000 days. Further, a parent’s willingness to engage in services is impacted by their perceptions about parenting and whether they think the services will be helpful.

This presentation will discuss parents’ perceptions about their role as parents and their thoughts about engaging in parenting programs. It is based on 52 qualitative interviews with parents. 23 parents had attended an evidence-based parenting program with Uniting and the other 29 parents were enrolled in a supported playgroup with Uniting but had never attended a parenting program.

None of the parents interviewed felt that parenting was valued in Australia. All the parents reported feeling judged at some point; however some parents had been more affected by this than others. Those most affected by people’s judgement about their parenting often experienced negative emotions such as shame and guilt, and this contributed to their anxiety about attending a parenting program. A case study will be used to illustrate the issues parents face.

This presentation will conclude with a discussion about the approaches Uniting uses to address stigma and support parents.

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