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Program getting First Nations kids school ready expands


Program getting First Nations kids school ready expands

A successful program that helps to prepare First kids for school will now be expanded to six more sites, supporting an extra 4,500 children.

On Friday, which marked National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly announced that the Connected Beginnings program will be established in five sites across Queensland and one in NSW, bringing the total to 40 sites, collectively supporting 16,400 First Nations children.

The cities to benefit from the program’s expansion will be Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Cairns, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, and Broken Hill.

Delivered in partnership with SNAICC National Voice for our Children and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), the Connected Beginnings program is a community-led project delivering results.

At existing sites, the average attendance of First Nations children in centre-based care has increased by more than 10 per cent from 2019 to 2022. Additionally, the number of children on track in all five Australian Early Development Census domains has increased.

The program connects First Nations children aged zero to five with a range of early childhood education, health and family support services to help them meet the learning and development milestones necessary to achieve a positive transition to school.

“All children, no matter their background or where they live, should be able to access the transformational benefits of quality early childhood education and care,” Dr Aly said.

“Children who access early childhood education do better on key measures throughout life, including improved literacy and numeracy skills, better health outcomes and go on to higher paying jobs.”

Dr Aly said the Connected Beginnings program has been structured so that communities are empowered to design and deliver the program in a way which supports their individual needs and aspirations.

“The program is delivering significant positive results for First Nations children, we’re already seeing an increase in the hours of early childhood education and care along with an increase in preschool enrolments.”

Connected Beginnings is a key contributor to the Closing the Gap early childhood education targets – partnering with First Nations communities in ensuring activities are delivered to First Nations people, in their own places and on their Country.

The funding for the new sites is part of an $81.8m Government investment to expand the national program to 50 sites by 2025. 

To further ensure First Nations Children are able to access the transformational benefits of quality early childhood education and care, the Government increased the number of hours of subsidised care First Nations children are eligible for to a minimum of 36 hours a fortnight.

“The expansion of Connected Beginnings to new sites means more place-based and community-led efforts to support First Nations children to thrive in their early years,” Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Malarndirri McCarthy said.

“The Department of Health and Aged Care and NACCHO are working together to support Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to participate in the program at all sites and deliver essential activities to improve the health of First Nations children.”

McCarthy added: “This builds on the important comprehensive health services provided by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across the country which empower First Nations people to achieve optimal health outcomes for themselves, their families and their communities.”

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