Research Matters

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Play Matters is committed to rigorous evaluation and ongoing research into play and its impact on children and families. We partner with educational institutions and our programs are informed by evidence.

Messy Play

Research and Development

Play Matters Australia is committed to keeping up-to-date with new advances in theory and practice and provides quality professional development opportunities for our staff and volunteers. Play Matters Australia is also committed to undertaking research in partnership with universities and other research bodies:

  • Sing&Grow carried out a major research project in partnership with Queensland University of Technology in 2019, which demonstrated significant improvements in children’s cognitive self-regulation over time through participation in Sing&Grow.
  • Our community playgroup team continues to work with Queensland University of Technology in researching healthy behaviours.
  • In 2020, partnering with Griffith University, our intergenerational playgroups program, Ageless Play, was successful in completing certification through the Together Old and Young (TOY) Quality Programme, an international quality framework to assess and improve the quality of intergenerational practice.
  • In 2019/2020, the Connect and Grow program was assessed as a Promising Program through the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Step into Prep program, which was previously assessed as a Promising Program, has continued to collect further evidence of the positive impacts of the program for children to support it becoming an Evidence-Based Program.

“Play is the highest form of research”

Albert Einstein

Child painting

Proportionate Universalism

Play Matters Australia does not have the resources to provide an equivalent level of support to all playgroups and communities, so we work on a model of proportionate universalism to determine a fair distribution of resources based on a commitment to the principle of equity. Proportionate universalism strategically balances targeted and universal approaches by delivering universalism with an intensity related to the level of social need.


Berry, L., Oreopoulos, J., and Higgins-Anderson, J. (2021). Innovations and adaptations of a national music therapy program during COVID lockdowns. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 32(1), 42–51. Issue%201/5_%20AMJT%2032(1)%20-%20Berry%20et%20al.pdf

Savage, S., Williams, K. E., Berry, L., and Oreopoulos, J. (2020). Parental perceptions of the Sing&Grow programme: Group music therapy building knowledge, confidence and social support. Journal of Family Studies.

Stanley, M. and Berry, L. (2019). Too much too soon? Balancing relationship-building with the gathering of meaningful data. Communities, Children and Families Australia, 13(1), 1-26.

Teggelove, K., Thompson, G., and Tamplin, J. (2019). Supporting positive parenting practices within a community‐based music therapy group program: Pilot study findings. Journal of Community Psychology, 47(4), 712-726.

Teggelove, K. (2017). Building stronger families through music: Sing&Grow group programs for families at risk. In S. L. Jacobsen and G. Thompson (Eds.), Music therapy with families: Therapeutic approaches and theoretical perspectives (pp. 152-172). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Williams, K., Teggelove, K., and Day, T. (2014). Contemporary cultures of service delivery to families: Implications for music therapy. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 25, 148-173.

Williams, K. E., Berthelsen, D., Nicholson, J., Walker, S., and Abad, V. (2012). The Effectiveness of a short-term group music therapy intervention for parents who have a child with a disability. Journal of Music Therapy, 49(1), 23-44.

Abad, V. (2011). The effectiveness of a short-term group music therapy intervention for young parents and their children. [Master's thesis, Queensland University of Technology].

Williams, K. E., Nicholson, J. M., Abad, V, Docherty, L., and Berthelsen, D. (2011). Evaluating parent-child group music therapy programmes: Challenges and successes for Sing & Grow. In J. Edwards (Ed.), Music therapy and parent-infant bonding (p. 73-92). Oxford University Press.

Nicholson, J. M., Berthelsen, D., Williams, K. E., and Abad, V. (2010). National study of an early parenting intervention: Implementation differences on parent and child outcomes. Parenting Program Implementation. Prevention Science, 11(4), 360-370.

Sherwin, L. and Freeman, L. (2009). The Sing & Grow program: Young parents bonding with their children through music. Music Forum, 15(2), 55-57.

Abad, V., & Williams, K. (2009). Funding and employment conditions: Critical issues for Australian Music Therapy beyond 2009. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 20: 20th Anniversary Special Edition, 56-62.

Nicholson, J. M., Berthelsen, D., Abad, V., Williams, K., & Bradley, J. (2008). Impact of music therapy to promote positive parenting and child development. Journal of Health Psychology, 13(2), 226-238.

Docherty, L., Nicholson, J., & Williams, K. (2007). Sing & Grow: the co-existence of evaluation research and clinical practice in an early intervention music therapy project, The New Zealand Journal of Music Therapy, 5, 1-16.

Abad, V., & Williams, K. (2007). Early Intervention Music Therapy: Reporting on a 3-Year Project To Address Needs with At-Risk Families, Music Therapy Perspectives, 25(1), 52–58.

Williams, K. (2006). Action inquiry into the use of standardized evaluation tools for music therapy : a real life journey within a parent-child community program. Voices : A World Forum for Music Therapy, 6(2).

Abad, V. & Williams, K. (2006). Early intervention music therapy for adolescent mothers and their children, British Journal of Music Therapy, 20(1), 31-38.

Williams, K., & Abad, V. (2005). Reflections on music therapy with indigenous families: Cultural learning put into practice. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 16, 60-69.

Abad, V., & Edwards, J. (2004). Strengthening Families: A Role for Music Therapy in Contributing to Family Centred Care. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 15, 3–17.

Williams K, Berthelsen D, Viviani M, Nicholson J, (2016) Queensland supported playgroup evaluation: Final report.

Queensland Government. Department of Education, North Coast Region. Play Steps Workshop. May 2018.

Doing School Differently. Sing&Grow Off to School: Music Therapy supporting the most vulnerable families transition to school. June 2018. (Sing&Grow).

Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) The adaptability of playgroups; addressing what matters to families in the 21st Century. July 2018. Joint presentation Playgroup Victoria & Playgroup Queensland (Play Matters Australia).

Childhood Trauma Conference. Dynamics: Regional and Remote Trauma-Informed Music Therapy with Families August 2018.

Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) Changing the way we measure success: Balancing the building of relationship with the gathering of meaningful data. September 2018.

Child on swing

Proportionate Universalism

Play Matters Australia partners with research and educational institutions. We collaborate on projects that align with our mission and values and support researchers. If you'd like to work with us click on the link below and send us a message. A member of the Play Matters team will be in touch.

Our Research Partners