Bumblebees Therapeutic Preschool (BTPS)

Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles


Practice focus

The collaborative whole-of-community focus to gain support from the local commmunity for the service, while providing culturally relevant activities that are based on existing evidence.

Delivered by

Phoenix House: A non-government organisation.


The information provided for this Promising Practice Profile was supplied by the Director of Phoenix House.

Service type

The program is a therapeutic preschool home visiting service that provides counselling and education for families, parents and carers of children aged 3-5 years who are at risk of harm, or have been harmed due to child abuse. 26% to 50% of the program's clients are reported as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.


Regional City: Bundaberg, QLD.


The mission of the BTPS is to provide "a safe, supportive service which assists those members of the community who have been harmed, are at risk of harm, and/or are willing to address their own harmful behaviours, using a public health approach to the prevention of sexual violence". BTPS provides services and support to an appropriate segment of the Bundaberg community where there is a higher reported risk of parenting-related stresses and problems.

The BTPS program has two aims:

  • to increase the resiliency of children (and their families) attending the program via individual and social resiliency factors such as social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy, and the ability to establish a close bond with appropriately responsive adult(s) and caring peers/friends; and,
  • to address (or alleviate) the children's symptoms of psychopathology and problematic behaviour following harm caused by child abuse.

The rationale for the approach stems from a large and growing body of literature that explores the impact of early trauma on attachment and also draws from research in the area of resilience.


Triennial funding is provided for the operation of the BTPS by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS).


MOST promising aspect

BTPS uses a comprehensive ecological model that considers what the Aboriginal understanding of community means. Also, the program operates in multiple settings with all family members to ensure vulnerable children and their families have access to the service.

Other promising aspects

Other promising aspects of the program include:

  • the program has been shown to have effective outcomes from its long-term evaluation and continued evidence base;
  • the Aboriginal Staff member within the BTPS has been successful in her submission to present the BTPS program at the SNAICC 2013 National Conference (out of 170 submissions);
  • the volunteers within the BTPS are Aboriginal;
  • the BTPS provides daily Aboriginal cultural activities and education to all children attending the BTPS;
  • the BTPS draws on the evidence base of 'what works?' For example, through its theory (attachment and strengths-based theories) to its practice (home visiting programs);
  • the program is innovative and was the first Therapeutic Preschool developed within Australia as a result of a Churchill Fellowship; and,
  • the program is sustainable in the longer-term with adequate funding provision.
Evidence base and opportunities

The emphasis on providing culturally relevant approaches for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families has enabled the BTPS to deliver positive outcomes for those families, as evidenced through the independent evaluation.

The BTPS also demonstrates the importance of the necessity of establishing close relationships with clients, stakeholders and the local Aboriginal community. Collaborative partnerships with these groups generate trust and a solid support base for the service among the community. These attributes represent a key ingredient in the success of the program's delivery.

The opportunity to further evidence the effectiveness of this program now exists, and could appropriately be adapted for use in other services that seek to engage with hard-to-reach populations.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

The BTPS employs an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family support worker to facilitate access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Bundaberg region. The role includes:

  • showing respect for Elders and leaders in the community and involving them in important decision-making;
  • ensuring non-Aboriginal staff working within Phoenix House receive regular peer feedback and that they have the capacity to provide services that are culturally relevant and responsive;
  • ensuring that all Phoenix House staff attend annual cultural awareness training and receive bi-monthly training with an Aboriginal Elder;
  • attending regular formal and informal meetings with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers to ensure Phoenix House maintains a positive profile within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community; and,
  • adopting an action learning process with appropriate tools to guide service refinements.

The BTPS ensures its volunteers include people from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Program activities are delivered through a partnership arrangement with other mainstream services. Aspects of this arrangement includes:

  • having a Phoenix House worker conduct home visits with an Aboriginal Health Service worker;
  • if required, advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients by accompanying them to mainstream service appointments;
  • encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients to identify themselves to mainstream services; and,
  • coordinating meetings of mainstream service workers. For example, by holding morning teas to facilitate networking and liaising.
Cultural practices and materials

Other cultural practices and materials adopted by the program include:

  • the use of Aboriginal visual and written materials and artefacts within Phoenix House;
  • being culturally aware, such as respecting a community that has Sorry Business by not requesting meetings for a period as advised by the community and avoiding the display of images of deceased people within Phoenix House;
  • providing a culturally appropriate intake procedure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, such as the provision of transport or undertaking home visits;
  • networking and liaising with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers to ensure seamless referral processes for Aboriginal clients;
  • attending community events such as NAIDOC week activities; and,
  • ensuring that a cultural component is included at BTPS sessions that focuses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and educational activities.

The program was adapted from the Kempe Children's Hospital Therapeutic Preschool in Denver, USA. The BTPS program has been modified for use in an Australian context and does not exclude any child on the basis of ethnicity or ability. However, as shown above the program adopts a range of culturally relevant approaches to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.


Evaluation status

The program has undergone an independent evaluation. The evaluation included written evaluations following client participation in the program and the effects of the program on participants by pre- and post-test comparison.


Demonstrated outcomes

The aim to promote resiliency in the children and families attending the service was met with evidence from the program evaluation that showed significant improvement between intake and exit regardless of intake characteristics. Of particular interest was the significant improvement seen in resiliency for participating children who were sexually abused.

The BTPS program was also statistically and clinically, successful in reducing the psycho-social correlates of the abuse experienced by the children attending the service. For the majority of children, problematic behaviour reduced from clinical levels to within normal ranges.

A reduction in generalised behavioural problems was indicated, suggesting that the BTPS was particularly effective in treating problematic behaviour. For example, children of Indigenous descent showed the greatest improvement indicating the effectiveness of BTPS's intention to provide culturally appropriate and sensitive therapy to Indigenous families within the Bundaberg locale.

The relatively high participation rate of Indigenous families within the BTPS (i.e., 9% of participating families versus 3% in background population) and the significant improvements (both in resilience and psychopathology) seen within these participants is an indicator that the BTPS program met the needs of these children and their families.

Other evidence

Other evidence that the program is effective include:

  • the increasing number of Aboriginal families accessing the program and the increase in parents accessing Phoenix House;
  • BTPS has prevented families from progressing further within statutory systems;
  • feedback from families and other agences;
  • numerous case study examples; and,
  • qualitative evidence such as photography and video techniques that examined pictorial representations of different stages of intervention.

The BTPS is currently being researched by the University of South Australia as part of an investigation into the cost effectiveness of promising early intervention/prevention programs. This will add to the evidence base about the program. The BTPS program is available for replication through training, support and an operational manual.

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