Toys are often an overlooked part of a child's life – even by children themselves. They're thrown into corners, shoved under beds, discarded when new ones come along.

Yet toys play a significant role in the physical and psychological development of a child, especially in an age when screens are threatening to turn all of us into passive consumers.

The library is one of several community facilities supported by Rio Tinto on the Gove Peninsula

It's incredibly convenient to be able to borrow and return an item after the children have had a good play with it

Sue Stewart, toy librarian

Sue Stewart understands the role toys play in childhood development. It's one of the reasons why she decided to get involved with the Nhulunbuy Community Toy Library on the Gove Peninsula deep in Australia's north.

At first Sue was simply a member of the library, using the facility to give her two children a greater range of experiences. However, when the job of toy librarian came up she jumped at the opportunity, enabling her to combine parenting with a passion for early education.

"It's expensive to transport bigger toys to Nhulunbuy because the town is so far from metropolitan centres. So to not have to purchase a toy and be able to borrow it from a toy library is a real benefit for parents and the local community," says Sue.

"Also homes up here are not very big so it can be difficult to store bigger toys," continues Sue, who moved to North East Arnhem Land in 2011 with her partner Nigel, a Rio Tinto safety advisor.

"It's incredibly convenient to be able to borrow and return an item after the children have had a good play with it," she says.

Brett Parfitt Brett Parfitt
Gove Peninsula Surf Life Saving Club president Brett Parfitt

The Nhulunbuy Community Toy Library is one of several community facilities and activities supported by Rio Tinto on the Gove Peninsula.

Rio Tinto Gove Operations Sponsorships and Donations programme provides not-for-profit organisations, community groups and associations with funding that benefits the Gove Peninsula. The funding is assessed and allocated quarterly based on categories which support recreation, sport and wellbeing, culture, environment and natural resources, and community events.

Among those also benefitting from Rio Tinto's A$1 million+ investment in the local community are the Gove Peninsula Surf Life Saving Club and the Nhulunbuy BMX Club.

Surf Life Saving Club president Brett Parfitt says that clubs such as his are crucial in fostering a community spirit.

"What keeps people in towns like this is that sense of community. Rio Tinto has been a kind supporter of our club over many, many years," says Brett.

The Nhulunbuy BMX Club allows younger community members to burn off energy

Nhulunbuy BMX Club vice president Lesley Tankard is also grateful for the support of Rio Tinto. She says it's allowed the younger members of the community to have an "awesome" BMX track on which to exercise and burn off energy.

"Without Rio Tinto's support we wouldn't be the club we are today," says Lesley, who describes the kids who use the track as "Duracell bunnies who keep going and going and do not stop."

For toy librarian Sue, that support does not only foster community spirit and give youngsters something to do. It's also crucial to the development of young bodies and minds.

"Play is far more important to childhood development than we generally realise. We see the toy library as playing an important role in that healthy growth of the younger members of our community," says Sue.

"And we couldn't do that without the support of Rio Tinto. They've been an ongoing supporter of the service. Their grants have allowed us to keep our selection fresh and expand it so we can keep appealing to our community."


Main image: Members of the Nhulunbuy BMX Club