The University of Wollongong was awarded $31 million through the Education Investment Fund (EIF) Regional Priorities Round to construct the Early Start—Changing Children’s Futures project at the University of Wollongong campus and 38 Early Start Engagement Centres. The project commenced in February 2013 and was completed in March 2016.
The first stage of the project was the construction of the Early Start Facility, a purpose-designed building for teaching, learning, research and community engagement with nine specific teaching spaces to accommodate university teaching in undergraduate and postgraduate classes, delivering a blend of early childhood education and professional development. It houses approximately 130 research staff and research students, and 133 administrative staff, community and student volunteers, and assistants.
The facility’s Discovery Space and children’s museum provides valuable learning experiences for young children and has attracted more than 85,000 visitors since its opening in May 2015.
The Early Start facility was officially opened on 8 July 2015 by the Hon Scott Morrison MP, the then Minister for Social Services.
The second stage of the project was the installation of ICT and interactive technologies to facilitate professional development and the delivery of early childhood courses across a network of 38 regional and remote New South Wales engagement centres. Through this network, Early Start collaborates with and enables early childhood educators to engage with others and share resources and ideas. They work closely with researchers at the University of Wollongong to improve the learning environment for children, build further capacity for the educators, and translate experience and evidence for ongoing research.
The Early Start facility also provides a venue for community activities such as multicultural awareness groups for a targeted playgroup, community groups working with disadvantaged families, councils and non-government organisations for children’s welfare.