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The Australian Government is investing in a $122.6 million Child Care Package and a $126 million Schools Package as part of the Closing the Gap Implementation Plan.
Indigenous children, particularly those in remote and regional areas, are more likely to start school behind non-indigenous children. Students who start from behind often struggle to catch up in the rest of their schooling. These investments in early education will help bridge those gaps.
Working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies, organisations, services and communities. The measures focus on scaling up evidence-driven initiatives which are already lifting participation in quality early childhood programs and improving school readiness.
Expansion of the Connected Beginnings Program
Connected Beginnings is a successful place-based collective impact initiative which aims to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families with holistic support and timely access to existing early childhood, maternal and child health, and family support services. The program has been progressively rolled out since 2016 and works with communities to identify key early childhood priorities for change, ensuring children aged 0-5 years meet the learning and development milestones necessary to start school.
The Australian Government has committed an additional $81.8 million to support the expansion of the program from the current footprint of 22 sites to 50 sites nationally by 2025. $44.8 million will be delivered through the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and $37.0 million through the Department of Health. Site selection will be informed by analysis of AEDC data, population and socioeconomic data, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholder partnerships and local community engagement.
The expansion will benefit an additional 8,550 children in communities with the highest need to be safe, healthy and ready to thrive at school by aged five, and contribute to reducing the difference in school readiness and education outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.
You can find out more about the program on the Connected Beginnings page.
Expansion of the Community Child Care Fund Restricted Program
The Australian Government will be working in co-operation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to expand the Community Child Care Fund Restricted (CCCFR) program and to lift the participation rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Funding has been announced for up to 20 additional high quality Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child care services and to strengthen community engagement and outreach in existing locations. This represents additional funding of $29.9 million over the approximate $55 million per year currently spent by the CCCFR program.
The expansion of the CCCFR will benefit up to 3,500 children by helping to reduce barriers to childcare and increase the access to high quality and mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander run services.
Identification of new CCCFR sites will be informed by data on service gaps and in consultation with peak bodies, state and territory governments and other key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders.
More information is available on the Community Child Care Fund page.
Early Years Education Program
The Australian Government is providing funding of $9 million to expand the Early Years Education Program, to connect highly disadvantaged children with child care services and targeted health, nutrition, mental health services.
The Early Years Education Program supports disadvantaged children to bridge the gap to school readiness. It is a multi-disciplinary model that offers high quality early education and care, infant mental health and family support, in partnership with families and local community organisations and agencies, to help at risk and disadvantaged children make significant early learning and developmental gains. The program is aimed at children from birth up to three years of age.
This measure will replicate the success of the original Early Years Education Program trial across four locations in Queensland and Victoria, including in a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander site. Commonwealth funding will be supplemented by philanthropic and state and territory government support.
Early Learning Teaching Trial
The Australian Government is committing $1.9 million to trial a new early learning teaching model to strengthen literacy and numeracy through explicit instruction, with a focus on improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children as they get ready for school.
This initiative will support the design, implementation and evaluation of a trial of a new early learning teaching model that strengthens literacy and numeracy learning in two early learning centres and undertake an evaluation of the outcomes.
The model will draw on international evidence, which indicates explicit instructional approaches can be more effective for some cohorts to teach specific skills in literacy and numeracy, along with local expertise regarding the benefits of different instructional models. The trial will be designed to complement play-based approaches in line with existing Australian early learning frameworks, which are known to have a significant positive impact on children’s early developmental outcomes.