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 all Best Start sites

​Ballarat

More information can be obtained by contacting the City of Ballarat Best Start facilitator, Wendy Jones, on the details below:

Family and Children's Services
City of Ballarat
Phoenix Building
25 Armstrong Street, Ballarat
PO Box 655, Ballarat 3353
Tel:  (03) 5320 3353

Email: wendyjones@ballarat.vic.gov.au
Web:  Ballarat Best Start

Brimbank

More information can be obtained by contacting the Brimbank City Council Best Start facilitator, Nina Photakis, on the details below:

Community Care
Brimbank City Council
Alexandra Avenue, Sunshine
PO Box 70, Sunshine 3020
Tel:  (03) 9249 4038

Email: ninap@brimbank.vic.gov.au 

Cardinia

More information can be obtained by contacting the Cardinia Shire Council Best Start facilitator, Terry Larkman, on the details below:

Community Services
Cardinia Shire Council
20 Siding Avenue, Officer
PO Box 7, Pakenham 3810
Tel:  (03) 5945 4434

Email: t.larkman@cardinia.vic.gov.au
Web:  Cardinia Best Start

Central Goldfields

More information can be obtained by contacting the Central Goldfields Best Start facilitator, Sue Bray, on the details below:

Maryborough District Health Service
75-87 Clarendon Street, Maryborough
PO Box 155, Maryborough 3465
Tel:  (03) 5461 0443

Email: sbray@mdhs.vic.gov.au

Dandenong

More information can be obtained by contacting the City of Greater Dandenong Best Start facilitator, Callie Miratana, on the details below:

Children, Youth and Family Services
City of Greater Dandenong
225 Lonsdale Street, Dandenong
PO Box 200, Dandenong 3175
Tel:  (03) 8571 1839

Email: cmirat@cgd.vic.gov.au
Web:  Dandenong Best Start

Darebin

More information can be obtained by contacting the City of Darebin Best Start facilitator, Yvette Higgins, on the details below:

Community, Families & Children's Services
Darebin City Council
274 Gower Street, Preston
PO Box 91, Preston 3072
Tel:  (03) 8470 8120

Email: yvette.higgins@darebin.vic.gov.au
Web:  Darebin Best Start

​Frankston

More information can be obtained by contacting the Frankston City Council Best Start facilitator, Karen Wheeler, on the details below:

Family and Youth Services
Frankston City Council
43 Davey Street, Frankston
PO Box 490, Frankston 3199
Tel:  (03) 9768 1653

Email: karen.wheeler@frankston.vic.gov.au
Web:  Frankston Best Start

​Geelong (Corio-Norlane)                                 

More information can be obtained by contacting the City of Greater Geelong Best Start facilitator, Seona Murphy, on the details below:

Family Services
City of Greater Geelong
Ariston House
245-249 Pakington Street, Newtown
PO Box 104, Geelong 3120
Tel:  (03) 5272 4987

Email: smurphy@geelongcity.vic.gov.au
Web:  Geelong Best Start (Corio-Norlane)

Hume

More information can be obtained by contacting the Hume City Council Best Start facilitator, Kelly Brand, on the details below:

Children's Services
Hume City Council
1079 Pascoe Vale Road, Broadmeadows
PO Box 119, Dallas 3049
Tel:  (03) 9205 2545

Email: kellybr@hume.vic.gov.au

Latrobe

More information can be obtained by contacting the Latrobe City Council Best Start facilitator, Sara McAlister, on the details below:

Children and Family Services
Latrobe City Council
141 Commercial Road, Morwell
PO Box 264, Morwell 3840
Tel:  (03) 5128 5651

Email: sara.mcalister@latrobe.vic.gov.au
Web:  Latrobe Best Start

Maribyrnong

More information can be obtained by contacting the Maribyrnong City Council Best Start facilitator, Cath Black, on the details below:

Children and Families
Maribyrnong City Council
61 Napier Street, Footscray
PO Box 58, Footscray 3011
Tel:  (03) 9688 0242

Email: cath.black@maribyrnong.vic.gov.au

Melton

More information can be obtained by contacting the City of Melton Best Start facilitator, Leigh Ball, on the details below:

Children's Services
City of Melton
232 High Street, Melton
PO Box 21, Melton 3337
Tel:  (03) 9747 7334

Email: leighc@melton.vic.gov.au
Web:  Melton Best Start

Mildura

More information can be obtained by contacting the Mildura Rural City Council Best Start facilitator, Clare Taylor, on the details below:

Children and Youth Services
Mildura Rural City Council
76-84 Deakin Avenue, Mildura
PO Box 105, Mildura 3502
Tel:  (03) 5018 8276

Email: clare.taylor@mildura.vic.gov.au
Web:  Mildura Best Start

​Moorabool

More information can be obtained by contacting the Moorabool Shire Council Best Start facilitator, Jane Gardner, on the details below:

Family & Children's Services
Moorabool Shire Council
15 Stead Street, Ballan
PO Box 18, Ballan 3342
Tel:  (03) 5366 7100

Email: jgardner@moorabool.vic.gov.au
Web:  Moorabool Best Start

Mornington Peninsula

More information can be obtained by contacting the Mornington Peninsula Shire Best Start facilitator, Suzanne Quinn, on the details below:

Children, Youth and Family Services
Mornington Peninsula Shire
21 Marine Parade, Hastings
Private Bag 1000, Rosebud 3939
Tel:  (03) 5950 1684

Email: suzanne.quinn@mornpen.vic.gov.au

​Nillumbik

More information can be obtained by contacting the Nillumbik Best Start facilitator, Sue Malone, on the details below:

Community Services
Nillumbik Shire Council
Civic Drive, Greensborough
PO Box 476, Greensborough 3088
Tel:  (03) 9433 3135

Email: sue.malone@nillumbik.vic.gov.au

​Robinvale

More information can be obtained by contacting the Robinvale Best Start facilitator, Cindy Hinterholzl, on the details below:

Robinvale Community Health Services
Robinvale District Health Service
128 Latje Road, Robinvale
PO Box 376, Robinvale 3549
Tel:  (03) 5051 8165

Email: chinterholzl@rdhs.com.au
Web:  Robinvale Early Years Network

Shepparton

More information can be obtained by contacting the City of Greater Shepparton Best Start facilitator, Belinda Whitelaw, on the details below:

Children's Services
City of Greater Shepparton
90 Welsford Street, Shepparton
Locked Bag 1000, Shepparton 3632
Tel:  (03) 5832 9790

Email: belinda.whitelaw@shepparton.vic.gov.au
Web:  Shepparton Best Start

South Coast

More information can be obtained by contacting the South Coast Best Start facilitator on the details below:

Bass Coast Health
Graham Street, Wonthaggi
PO Box 120, Wonthaggi 3995
Tel:  (03) 5671 3500

Wellington

More information can be obtained by contacting the Wellington Best Start facilitator, Belinda Jones, on the details below:

UnitingCare Gippsland
126 Raymond Street, Sale 3850
Tel:  (03) 5144 7777

Email: belinda.jones@ucgipps.org.au


Whittlesea

More information can be obtained by contacting the City of Whittlesea Best Start facilitators, Kim Barker or Iris Crook, on the details below:

Family Services
City of Whittlesea
Shop MM9, 1st Floor
Westfield Plenty Valley
415 McDonalds Road, Mill Park
Locked Bag 1, Bundoora MDC 3083
Tel:  (03) 9404 8875

Email: kim.barker@whittlesea.vic.gov.au or iris.crook@whittlesea.vic.gov.au

​Wyndham

More information can be obtained by contacting the Wyndham City Best Start facilitator, Karen Thomson, on the details below:

Early Years & Youth
Wyndham City
45 Princes Highway, Werribee
PO Box 197, Werribee 3030
Tel:  (03) 9742 0762

Email: karen.thomson@wyndham.vic.gov.au
Web:  Wyndham Best Start

​Yarra Ranges

More information can be obtained by contacting the Yarra Ranges Best Start facilitator, Wendy Blakis, on the details below:

Family and Children's Services
Yarra Ranges Council
15 Anderson Street, Lilydale
PO Box 105, Lilydale 3140
Tel:  (03) 9294 6405

Email: w.blakis@yarraranges.vic.gov.au

Delkaia

More information can be obtained by contacting the Delkaia Aboriginal Best Start facilitator, Michelle Cameron, on the details below:

Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative
43 Hamilton Street, Horsham 3400
Tel:  (03) 5381 6304

Email: michelle.cameron@goolumgoolum.org.au

Djillay Lidj (Baw Baw and Latrobe)

More information can be obtained by contacting the Djillay Lidj Aboriginal Best Start facilitators, Belinda Crawford (Baw Baw) and Sascha Johnston (Latrobe), on the details below:

Baw Baw

Djillay Lidj Aboriginal Best Start
Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation
25 Young Street, Drouin
PO Box 250, Morwell 3840
Tel:  (03) 5625 6500

Email: beststart.bawbaw@nindedana.net

Latrobe

Djillay Lidj Aboriginal Best Start
Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation
15-17 Buckley Street, Morwell
PO Box 250, Morwell 3840
Tel:  (03) 5133 8273

Email: beststart@nindedana.net

East Gippsland

More information can be obtained by contacting the East Gippsland Aboriginal Best Start facilitator, Georgia Zerbe, on the details below:

Aboriginal Best Start
East Gippsland Shire Council
273 Main Street, Bairnsdale
PO Box 1618, Bairnsdale 3875
Tel:  (03) 5153 9500

Email: georgiaz@egipps.vic.gov.au

Mingo Waloom

More information can be obtained by contacting the Mingo Waloom Aboriginal Best Start facilitator, Kristie Fraser-Lange, on the details below:

Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative
Lot 42 Morgan Street, North Geelong
PO Box 402, North Geelong 3215
Tel:  (03) 5272 8827

Email: kristie.lange@wathaurong.org.au
Web: 

Njernda

More information can be obtained by contacting the Njernda Aboriginal Best Start facilitator,  Tina Thompson, on the details below:

Njernda Aboriginal Corporation
86 Hare Street, Echuca 3564
Tel:  (03) 5482 6566

Email: bests@njernda.com.au
Web:  Njernda Aboriginal Best Start

​Tartu-nganyin Bopop

More information can be obtained by contacting the Tartu-nganyin Bopop facilitator, Louise Singleton, on the details below:

Dandenong & District Aborigines Cooperative
62 Stud Road, Dandenong
PO Box 683, Dandenong 3175
Tel:  (03) 9791 2140

Email: louise@ddacl.org.au
Web:  Tartu-nganyin Bopop Aboriginal Best Start

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:

  • Djillay Lidji (Baw Baw and Latrobe)
    Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation
    25 Young Street, Drouin
    PO Box 250, Morwell 3840
    Tel:  (03) 5625 6500

    Email: beststart.bawbaw@nindedana.net

    Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation
    15-17 Buckley Street, Morwell
    PO Box 250, Morwell 3840
    Tel:  (03) 5133 8273
    Email: beststart@nindedana.net

  • East Gippsland Shire Council
    273 Main Street, Bairnsdale
    PO Box 1618, Bairnsdale 3875
    Tel:  (03) 5153 9500

    Email: georgiaz@egipps.vic.gov.au

  • Mingo Waloom (Geelong)
    Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative
    Lot 42 Morgan Street, North Geelong
    PO Box 402, North Geelong 3215
    Tel:  (03) 5272 8827
    Email: kristie.lange@wathaurong.org.au
  • Njernda (Echuca)

    Njernda Aboriginal Corporation
    86 Hare Street, Echuca 3564
    Tel:  (03) 5482 6566
    Email: bests@njernda.com.au
    Web:  Njernda Aboriginal Best Start

  • Tartu-nganyin Bopop (Dandenong)

    Dandenong & District Aborigines Cooperative
    62 Stud Road, Dandenong
    PO Box 683, Dandenong 3175
    Tel:  (03) 9791 2140
    Web:  Tartu-nganyin Bopop Aboriginal Best Start