Department program

Best Start

Best Start is an early years initiative to support families and caregivers to provide the best possible environment, experiences and care for children from birth to age eight.

The program focuses on children experiencing vulnerability and all Aboriginal children.

Best Start partnerships use local data and community knowledge to identify those who are experiencing vulnerability at their sites. Communities and service providers collaborate to address issues as they are experienced at a neighbourhood or regional level.

This localised, targeted way of finding solutions to problems faced by families has been shown to be extremely effective. Efforts are focused on boosting children's participation in the programs such as kindergarten and maternal and child health (MCH) services. The program also puts in place prevention strategies, such as providing referral pathways when targeted supports are required.

For early childhood professionals

Project sites

There are a total of 30 Best Start project sites across Victoria. Six of these project sites work specifically with local Aboriginal communities. See Best Start sites and guidelines.

Outcomes

The primary and optional outcomes listed below are medium-term outcomes, and have been devised to focus and organise partnership efforts so that they align with Best Start key directions.

Primary outcomes

Children engage and participate in early childhood education (kindergarten and supported playgroups).

Children and families actively engage with MCH services, attending key ages and stages visits.

Optional outcomes

Children acquire literacy and numeracy skills through active participation in their education.

Early childhood services provide an engaging environment for children and families experiencing vulnerability.

Partnerships

Best Start partnerships lead reform at the local level. They play a key role in bringing local services together to deliver on the Best Start outcomes for children and their families, in particular those with the greatest needs. All Best Start partnerships have a role to play in working in a culturally inclusive manner with Aboriginal communities.

The Best Start partnership works collaboratively to:

  • take responsibility for the interests of all children, especially Aboriginal children and children experiencing vulnerability, to access the key universal platforms of kindergarten and MCH services, and targeted services like supported playgroups
  • work in a culturally inclusive manner with Aboriginal communities
  • define and agree on the barriers and needs for their Best Start site that align with the Best Start vision, key directions, outcomes and the site's special areas of focus. They are careful to ensure the impact of the partnership is placed ahead of the interests of any individual organisation
  • develop a logic model and devise strategies and actions to test through plan, do, study, act cycles, and engage in improvement cycles to achieve Best Start outcomes
  • monitor and report on progress regularly so that improvements can be made to their Best Start strategies and actions
  • prepare, develop and endorse all reports in line with the Department's requirements, as per the Best Start policy and guidelines.

Aboriginal Best Start

​​​​Aboriginal Best Start projects have been established to make sure that local Aboriginal communities and organisations are given every possible opportunity to influence outcomes for their children and families.

The Victorian Aboriginal community includes a number of communities and extended family networks. It is widely acknowledged that past practices have not had a positive effect on Aboriginal people. Current health and welfare policies acknowledge the impact of past policies and seek to work collaboratively for a better future.

The Aboriginal Best Start projects have been established to make sure 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.

There are six Aboriginal Best Start project sites around Victoria. See Best Start sites and guidelines.