SNAICC welcomes Federal Gov announcement of Indigenous early childhood strategy

SNAICC welcomes Federal Gov announcement of Indigenous early childhood strategy

by Freya Lucas

February 14, 2020

SNAICC – National Voice for our Children welcomed the announcement earlier this week that the Federal Government will be developing an Indigenous early childhood strategy in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 


The announcement came in the wake of the release of the 12th Closing the Gap report, which found that while the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children “are thriving in their families, communities and cultures”, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families still experience multiple forms of disadvantage that make children vulnerable in their early years. 


SNAICC CEO, Richard Weston, noted that many communities are affected by a range of adverse experiences such as poverty, violence, drug and alcohol issues and homelessness. 


“Without an opportunity to heal from the resulting trauma, its impact can deeply affect children’s brain development causing life-long challenges to the way they function in the world. It is experienced within our families and communities and from one generation to the next. We need urgent action to support better outcomes and opportunities for our children” Mr Weston said. 


Speaking on the announcement, made by Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, Mr Weston said it “sends a clear message that the status quo is not working for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The new government commitment reflects and recognises the tireless efforts of SNAICC’s members who have been working to support our children and families and calling for early childhood policy reform for decades.”


SNAICC commended the Government’s recognition that placing children at the centre of the next phase of Closing the Gap is “critical to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”


The formation of the strategy comes after a long period of time during which SNAICC has called for a national strategy to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, saying that community engagement and leadership will be critically important to making the strategy an effective one. 


“Our families, children and communities need to be empowered to have a greater say over their own lives” Mr Weston said. 


SNAICC noted that the most recent iteration of the Closing the Gap report showed “very little progress” across targets such as employment, school attendance, life expectancy, child mortality rates, and literacy and numeracy. 


While the report found that the target to have 95 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds enrolled in early child education in 2025, which was achieved in 2017, has slipped backwards to 86.4 per cent in 2018. 


Access to quality, culturally safe services, including maternal and child health, family support, and early childhood education and care, are essential for supporting children’s development. This is particularly true for children who experience disadvantage early in life, a spokesperson said. 


SNAICC Chairperson, Muriel Bamblett said that the findings demonstrate the urgent need to focus efforts on building service systems that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to grow up safe and well, with every opportunity for success.


“Our culture, Country and community are part of who we are, and it is so important for our children to feel connected to culture and community. Our services go above and beyond to fight the disadvantage that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children face and support our families. We must be at the centre of efforts to improve the lives of our children” Ms Bamblett said in closing.