2020 Early Years Summit announces Barbara Wellesley AM as Patron

by Freya Lucas

January 14

With a long and distinguished career aimed at helping to improve the lives of Australia’s children and young people, Barbara Wellesley AM is a natural choice for Patron of the forthcoming National Early Years Summit, which will bring together professionals from across Australia to solve the question of how we can improve the lives of babies, toddlers and their parents by creating the national will to implement the “massive body of evidence long-known to governments and early childhood professionals”.

 

Ms Wellesley has been chosen as Patron, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) CEO Penny Dakin said, in recognition for her work with ARACY over many years as a “driving force”. A Summit with an intention of shifting roadblocks and creating a truly national push for change, and for action in the lives of children and young people, needs a strong champion at the helm. 

 

This Summit acknowledges that change is overdue, and that Australia as a nation needs true leadership, and true will, to properly help families, babies and toddlers, who find themselves struggling due to circumstances they can’t control. 

 

Having extensive experience in government policy and practice in the early years, as a co-founder and National Director of Good Beginnings Australia, a member of the inaugural Board of NIFTeY (National Investment for the Early Years) Australia and its successor the Early Years Chapter, and as a Board Member of the Parent-Infant Research Institute Ms Wellesley was awarded Membership of the Order of Australia for her national and international work with children.

 

Throughout her career, which began in 1966, Ms Wellesley has seen reams of evidence produced outlining the importance of the early years in helping to set a child on a better life trajectory, and to save the community the enormous costs of not doing so.

 

Sadly, she says, despite all the expert dialogue, think tanks, commissions and reports, we as a country still fail to get it right for children, and especially those who are the most vulnerable – and that failure is the driving force behind the Summit. 

 

“The Summit will bring together professionals from across sectors in one place to hammer out the actions we all need to take to ensure more little Australians are not robbed of their chance to reach their potential,” Ms Wellesley said. 

 

When asked to choose the ultimate outcome she was seeking from the Summit, Ms Wellesley highlighted the need for agreement, between thought leaders, policy makers, delegates, and participants that “changes need to be made to what we are doing for children”. 

 

“In my experience, the most critical thing is attachment and relationship. Children need that amazing two to five years of care to set them up for life. If you can get it right in those first five years, it’s far easier to keep it right down the line”

 

Pointing to Good Beginnings Australia, which merged with Save the Children Australia in 2015, as an example of program and policy implemented well, Ms Wellesley also noted the establishment of Stronger Families and Communities for Children as examples of Federal initiatives which earmarked opportunities for real change to have been made in Australia.

“Really, when we had a Minister for Children” she said, “that’s when I thought the evidence we have from around the world would be brought to life. I thought Australia would grab the ball and run with it…and it did, for a while.” 

Ms Wellesley said that she is looking very much forward to two days of discussion and ideas, and the ongoing work and actions that The Summit will ignite. Urging anyone interested in getting better outcomes for children to come along for what will be “two exciting and busy days of work”.

 

“These two days will be an opportunity to really think about how we improve outcomes for children. Start participating now, it’s going to be an exciting and demanding two days. The more you prepare in the lead up, the more opportunity you will have to influence the outcomes,” she said in closing. 

 

The National Early Years Summit will be held in Melbourne on 11-12 March 2020. Hosted by ARACY with partners the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), Goodstart Early Learning, the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI), Children’s Healthcare Australasia (CHA), and Families Australia, tickets are available here

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