More children living with significant adversity will start school on par with their peers thanks to $9 million funding to replicate intensive early childhood program

Social Ventures Australia and leading early childhood and infant mental health academics, Dr Anne Kennedy and Associate Professor Brigid Jordan AM, have welcomed today’s announcement of $9 million funding from the Commonwealth Government to deliver an intensive early education program in four new sites, including one dedicated for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The program will benefit an estimated 200 of Australia’s children experiencing high levels of vulnerability by giving them access to intensive education and care.

This funding is being added to already significant philanthropic investment and will allow the researchers, with SVA’s support, to establish a dedicated Institute to oversee and manage the establishment and evaluation of the program in two sites each in Queensland and Victoria, and work with relevant communities, services and governments to deliver the services. The new Institute will be led by Dr Kennedy and Associate Professor Jordan.

Children will be enrolled in the three-year program from birth up to three years of age. The program uses a multi-disciplinary approach that offers high quality early education and care, infant mental health and family support, and is delivered in partnership with families and local community organisations.

This is a strategic investment by the Commonwealth Government to support young children living with significant adversity to start school as confident learners, developmentally on par with their peers. This investment will not only change the trajectory of children’s lives, it has the potential to reduce future government expenses in health, justice and community services.

While all the sites will be open and accessible to First Nations families, SVA and the program researchers are particularly pleased one of the four new sites will be a dedicated First Nations site which will be designed, implemented and evaluated with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and services in collaboration with SNAICC – the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Catherine Liddle, SNAICC CEO welcomed the funding from the Government saying it will strengthen the already great work that Aboriginal community-controlled services are delivering, with a focus on the intensive wraparound support that is vital for children and families.

‘We know that trauma is intergenerational, and focusing on healing for our kids in their early years is the pathway for greater outcomes in later life.’

Associate Professor Jordan said that intensive care interventions like this program have a life-changing impact on children experiencing high levels of vulnerability which cannot be achieved by less intensive models.

‘It is a targeted model that responds to the acute needs of highly vulnerable children in the same way that paediatric intensive care in hospitals is designed for children with acute medical problems.’

This investment in testing the program across four sites is crucial according to Dr Kennedy, who believes that studies covering multiple sites and locations are the ‘missing link’ between successful pilot programs and the ability to achieve those same outcomes when operating at scale.

‘For years we have seen the same negative statistics on the developmental, learning and wellbeing outcomes for Australia’s most disadvantaged children. This program’s targeted model is the first evidence-based model to provide a scalable approach for changing those statistics so that every child enters school as a confident learner.’  

SVA has supported the research team and will continue to work with the new Institute to build workforce capability to see positive outcomes for participating children.

SVA CEO Suzie Riddell congratulated all parties who will be involved in the roll out of the program in the four sites.

We are delighted to be involved in this partnership with communities, researchers, service delivery organisations and philanthropy to take a great, evidence-backed program and test if its innovative model can operate at scale.’

‘This project is a fantastic example of philanthropists, community and government coming together to take learnings from evidence and test it on a larger scale.’

About Social Ventures Australia

Social Ventures Australia (SVA) is a not-for-profit organisation that works with partners to alleviate disadvantage – towards an Australia where all people and communities thrive. We influence systems to deliver better social outcomes for people by learning about what works in communities, helping organisations be more effective, sharing our perspectives and advocating for change.

Early Years Research Team

The Early Years Research Team is a group of multi-disciplinary professionals who designed, implemented and evaluated the intensive early education program. They will lead the establishment of the new Institute and will manage the implementation and the evaluation of the program.

About SNAICC – National Voice for our Children

SNAICC – National Voice for our Children is the non-governmental peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. We work for the fulfilment of the rights of our children, in particular to ensure their safety, development and well-being. SNAICC exists to see all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive – growing up in nurturing environments, with loving and supporting families, adequate food and housing, and rich with our culture – to live their dreams.

Media enquiries: Emma Glyde

Updated: 8 October 2021