‘School readiness’ is a key to closing the early childhood education gap | World Vision

An enduring commitment to make sure First Nations kids are ‘school ready’ through quality early childhood education is one of the keys to closing the gap, World Vision’s acting head of First Nations Programs Grant Paulson said today.

Without access to locally-run playgroups, culturally strong early education services and good support for parents, First Nations children would fall behind in developmental milestones,” Mr Paulson said. 

Mr Paulsona Birri-Gubba/Bundjalung man, congratulated the Australian Government on their commitment today of $81.8 million to expand the Connected Beginnings program to 27 new sites. 

World Vision is a partner in one of the ten existing sites, located in Derby in Western Australia, and is seeing promising signs from its partnership with local communities and organisations. 

“We know that quality early childhood education, which is culturally strong and involves parents and families is critical and ensures that children have the best start in life,” he said. 

“We congratulate the government for recognising the importance of Early Childhood Education and investing in evidence-based models.”   

Mr Paulson said it was crucial that the Australian Government not only expanded the program, but also continued its strong investment in training and in the existing sites long-term, to ensure the best outcomes. 

“It’s important that there is support for innovative education and training opportunities for First Nations people in remote communities so that local staff are employed as educators and managers of the services,” he said. 

“We encourage the government to extend its funding for existing Connected Beginnings sites too, given the evidence that collective impact initiatives require long-term investment to achieve sustainable results,” Mr Paulson said. 

“Through listening to local communities and finding what’s required and the best approaches in each situation long-term, we can jointly deliver the strong results needed to close the gap and ensure children are school ready. We welcome the investment in early years programs for First Nations communities and particularly in those communities, where services don’t currently exist for young children and their families”. 

The new funding announced today will help to ensure an additional 8,550 children are safe, healthy, and ready to start school by the age of five. This critical foundation will create life-long and intergenerational health and social benefits which will strengthen and transform communities.   

The Australia Government also announced an additional $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 childcare services in remote communities, benefitting around 3,500 children. 

“It is excellent news that the government is going to address the gap in childcare places for First Nations children in remote areas. Having these operated by First Nations organisations is key to the sustainability and success of these initiatives,” Mr Paulson said. 

“Without local staff, First Nations families are less likely to use them. We’re keen to see further commitments that ensure services that are currently operated by non-Indigenous organisations, have a plan to build the local capacity to take over the running of these services in the future,” he said. This aligns with the Closing the Gap priority reform 2 of Building the Community Controlled Sector. 

World Vision Australia has worked for over forty years with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations in early learning and education specifically. It prioritises the building of trust, good relationships and strong partnership which lay the foundation for good community-led outcomes. 

Media contact: Leah Swann on 0421 857 591 or leah.swann@worldvision.com.au 

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