Significant spends aim to improve lives of First Nations children, Government says

Significant spends aim to improve lives of First Nations children, Government says

by Freya Lucas

August 05, 2021

The Australian Federal Government is investing more than $120 million to improve the lives of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children through better access to quality early childhood education, Federal Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge announced yesterday. 


Mr Tudge’s announcement coincided with National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, held annually on 4 August to honour and celebrate the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within family and community.


“Indigenous children, particularly those in remote and regional areas, are more likely to start school behind non-indigenous children,” the Minister said. “Students who start from behind often struggle to catch up in the rest of their schooling. These investments in early education will help bridge those gaps.”


Working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, the measures “focus on scaling up evidence-driven initiatives which are already lifting participation in quality early childhood programs and improving school readiness.”


The package forms part of the Commonwealth’s Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, to be announced later today, and includes:


  • $81.8 million to expand the Connected Beginnings program in 27 new sites, helping to ensure an additional 8,550 children are safe, healthy, and ready to start school by the age of five;
  • $29.8 million to expand the Community Child Care Fund Restricted Program and fund up to 20 additional mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-run child care services in remote communities, benefitting around 3,500 children;
  • $9 million to expand the Early Years Education Program to create four new replication sites in Queensland and Victoria, to connect highly disadvantaged children with child care services and targeted health, nutrition, mental health services.
  • $1.9 million to trial a new early learning teaching model to strengthen literacy and numeracy through explicit instruction, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in two early learning centres.


Commenting on the announcement, Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said the investment “would have real benefits” across education, maternal and child health, and support services for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.


“Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, particularly in remote areas, are missing out on the critical benefits of early childhood education and care,” Mr Wyatt continued.


“Through these measures we are enabling local communities to develop and deliver culturally appropriate solutions and support to local families to ensure children are healthy, happy and ready to thrive at school.”


“Reviews over many years have clearly shown that the best way to make sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island kids succeed is by getting them into quality programs early on in life,” Mr Tudge added. 


“We are giving every Australian child the opportunity to have the best start to life and ensure they have the skills they need when they start school, regardless of where they live.”


The package builds on the Government’s investment in preschool and childcare along with the Commonwealth’s $2 billion preschool funding agreements which will also seek ambitious targets for the attendance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the year before school.