Promoting child health and early education is a key component of World Vision’s work with Indigenous communities. World Vision has teamed up with BHP Billiton and five Martu communities in the East Pilbara region of Western Australia to implement a program focused on improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children aged 0-5 years.
The Pilbara Early Childhood Care and Development Program will work with the communities to set up and run early childhood activities and centres. A significant goal of this initiative is to promote the importance of early childhood education and school readiness within the broader community.
Research conducted in 2007 by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research showed that children living in the East Pilbara were developmentally vulnerable; infant mortality rates in remote Indigenous communities are almost three times higher than the national average.
As part of its Indigenous Investment Strategy, which has a focus on maternal and child health, BHP Billiton has committed A$5 million to the program over five years.
Dr Mark Moran, Head of World Vision’s Australia Programs, said the program “promotes the emotional, intellectual, physical and social development” of children. The innovative curriculum aims to improve literacy and develop local language resources.
Establishing relationships with schools and other organisations within the local communities is key to the success of the project. Playgroups have been established in two communities and early childhood care and development committees have been set up with local mothers.
In Jigalong, W.A the local school was quick to provide support, offering the use of a spare classroom for early childhood activities. Local mothers “have made the playgroup their own”, one program staff member commented. “They clean the room and set out toys each day; they help the kids with craft activities and set up a morning snack. The mums have time together and plan their next activities.”
This project will not only promote early childhood health and education but work with parents, families and the greater community to provide training and skills opportunities. Dr Moran explains, “Our aim is to ensure that they will be able to provide more sustainable early learning and health related activities for their children beyond the life of the program.”
By investing in childcare and early education the next generation growing up in the East Pilbara should have access to greater opportunities and a brighter, healthier future.
To learn more about the early childhood development program in Warlpiri communities click here