Connected Beginnings to benefit from expansion of early years First Nations funding
Connected Beginnings, a program which operates in the outback New South Wales town of Bourke, has almost tripled the number of First Nations and vulnerable children attending preschool by working closely with families and developing a model which better met their needs.
The program is one of many that will benefit from more than $120 million in funding from the Federal Government announced last week as part of a renewed effort to “help lift kids out of entrenched disadvantage”.
Through the investment the Government hopes to reach an additional 12,000 children, many of whom identify as Indigenous, under an initiative which recognises the transformative power of early childhood in shifting lifetime journeys.
The bulk of the Federal Government funding will be used to roll out Connected Beginnings to 27 more communities mostly in regional and remote areas to improve school readiness, lift childcare attendance and increase immunisation rates among Indigenous kids. The government will also fund 20 new mostly Indigenous-run childcare services in remote communities, benefiting about 3,500 children.
In Bourke, Children’s Services General Manager Prue Ritchie has seen first-hand the power of the program to boost enrolments and bring local communities together, benefiting children.
When announcing the new funding Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said that currently too many First Nations children are missing out on the myriad of benefits that access to high quality early childhood education and care can provide.
“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,” Mr Wyatt told The Age.
“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. This significant funding will help not only these children, but also their families and broader communities,” he added.
The Connected Beginnings program, which is currently operating in 23 communities, does not directly run preschools or provide services to children, but rather works with local education, health and family providers to determine how best to address gaps in delivery.
$82 million of the funding will be spent on expanding the program to reach a further 8,500 children, with $9 million being used to provide highly disadvantaged children in Queensland and Victoria with access to health, nutrition, and mental health services. A further $2 million will be used to trial an explicit instruction-based early learning teaching model in early learning centres.
To access the full coverage of this story, as written by Lisa Visentin for The Age please see here.