Supporting Aboriginal Children and Their Families

Supporting children and their families in the early years of development and learning is a key strategy to ensuring successful future outcomes for all children, including Aboriginal children.

Significant early childhood research acknowledges the importance of the early years and the positive impact on a child’s future when early risk factors are identified and strategies implemented to reduce these factors. The active involvement of parents in their children’s learning and development, promotion of good health and safety is directly related to improved outcomes for the child.

Early years programs and services

In Victoria, Aboriginal children and their families have access to the full range of early childhood services and additional targeted services for those that need them. Services include:

Early childhood programsAdditional programs/services for Aboriginal children and families
Best StartAboriginal Best Start
Maternity ServicesKoorie Maternity Service
Maternal and Child Health ServiceIndigenous Kindergarten Program
Maternal and Child Health LineKoorie Engagement Support Officers
ChildcareKoorie Preschool Assistants
4-year-old kindergarten (including fee subsidy for eligible children)Free kindergarten (up to 10 hours for 3 and 4 year old Aboriginal children)
ParentlineIn-home Support
Supported Playgroups and Parent GroupsHome-based Learning
Early Childhood Intervention Services
School

Local councils in Victoria have all developed a Municipal Early Years Plan that provides a strategic direction for the planning and delivery of early childhood services. These plans are inclusive of all members of the local community and reflect the diverse needs of that community. Information about the range of universal early childhood services available in local communities is available from the local council.

Programs and services for Aboriginal children

Additional early years programs and services for Aboriginal children and their families supported by the Department include:

For a Fact Sheet on supporting early childhood development for Koorie children living away from their parents, see Aboriginal Children's Support (docx - 727 (docx - 730.61kb).

Aboriginal Best Start

Best Start is a prevention and early intervention project that aims to improve the health, development, learning and wellbeing of all Victorian children from conception through to transition to school (usually 0-8 years old). The Best Start approach is to strengthen the local capacity of parents, families and communities and early years services to better provide for the needs of all young children and their families. There are 30 Best Start sites, six of which are Aboriginal Best Start sites.

The Aboriginal Best Start projects have been established to ensure that local Aboriginal communities and organisations are given every possible opportunity to influence outcomes for their children and families. These projects are designed to empower communities and families and develop broad cross-sectoral partnerships across all early years services to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children and their families.

All Best Start sites are expected to develop partnerships with their local Aboriginal communities and implement strategies that are culturally relevant and respectful of the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal communities. The Aboriginal Best Start Status Report underpins the direction of Aboriginal Best Start. The report brought together Aboriginal cultural beliefs, knowledge about the key elements of child development and the factors that impact on Aboriginal children reaching their full potential.

For more information, see: Best Start

To speak with someone about Aboriginal Best Start, contact Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Ltd. on (03) 9416 4266.

Indigenous Kindergarten program

Koorie engagement support officers

Koorie engagement support officers (KESOs) are employed by the Department to support Aboriginal families in accessing the broad range of services and supports they need to ensure the best start in life for Aboriginal children from birth through to to the time they complete school. They provide advice and practical support to services that provide funded kindergarten programs. They assist them in delivering programs that are respectful of cultural beliefs and practices for Koorie children, such as:

  • increase and enhance the participation of Koorie children in kindergarten
  • promote the values of kindergarten programs within Koorie families and communities
  • promote cultural awareness and provide access to resources for all kindergarten programs
  • liaise between Koorie families and kindergarten programs
  • support the Koorie Preschool Assistants’ program.

Koorie preschool assistants

The Koorie Preschool Assistants Program (KPSA) program is supported by community-based organisations. Koorie preschool assistants work with kindergarten programs to:

  • enhance the access and participation of Koorie children in kindergarten programs
  • promote and assist in the delivery of Koorie inclusive programs
  • provide information and support to Koorie families and communities
  • support the attendance of Koorie children in kindergarten programs
  • encourage the involvement and participation of Koorie parents, families and carers in the development of kindergarten programs
  • assist in the development of kindergarten programs that embrace Koorie culture.

For more information about early years services (including kindergarten programs):

Three-year-old kindergarten for Aboriginal children

Research shows that learning in the early years lays the foundation for later life. It demonstrates that quality kindergarten programs improve subsequent learning, health and behaviour, with positive impacts extending into adult life.

Aboriginal children already have access to a funded four year old kindergarten program with a fee subsidy available for four year old children.

Three year old kindergarten provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children an opportunity to access up to 10 hours a week of a funded early childhood program planned and delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher. This initiative enables a higher proportion of three year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children access to a high quality kindergarten program.

Aboriginal children will therefore have access to two years of a funded kindergarten program prior to commencing school.

For more information about kindergarten programs:

  • contact your local council
  • call the Koorie education coordinator at your regional office

Aboriginal In-home Support and Home-based Learning programs

In-home Support program

There is strong agreement in Australia and Internationally that early environments and relationships play a crucial role in determining whether children develop their social, emotional and cognitive skills in a way that gives them a solid foundation for further development. Children need at least one strong dependable and nurturing relationship for healthy development.

The In-home Support initiative is assisting Aboriginal families to strengthen, support and improve their parenting capacity and so improve the health, development, learning and wellbeing of Aboriginal children aged 0-3 years. This support will be provided in a way that is respectful of their cultural identity and promotes Aboriginal children and family wellbeing.

For more information, contact:

  • Aboriginal Early Years team on (03) 9651 3353
  • Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. on (03) 9481 0800

Home-based Learning program

The Home-based Learning program is for parents/families of children aged 3-5 years and is being implemented as an extension of the In-home Support Program. The Home-based Learning program will assist Aboriginal families to provide improved home learning environments for young children, aged 3-5 years, and empower parents as the primary educators of their children in the home in order to maximise the chances of successful kindergarten and early school experiences.

The program will provide adjustment to schooling preparation, assistance to Aboriginal children and families to complement kindergarten using the In-home Support/Home-based Learning programs curriculum framework. There are currently two Home-based Learning programs at the Mildura Aboriginal Corporation, Mildura and Swan Hill Aboriginal Health Service, Swan Hill.

For more information, contact:

  • Aboriginal Early Years team on (03) 9651 3353
  • Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc.: (03) 9481 0800