Connected Beginnings

Connected Beginnings is about making sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children get the best start to life.

On this page:

About the program

Connected Beginnings is for children from birth to school age and pregnant women. Through it, children can get steady, wrap-around support. This helps them meet the learning and development milestones needed for a smooth start to school.

Connected Beginnings is a grants program. Grants are made available in communities in need across Australia. Funding is used to get families access to culturally appropriate support services, including:

  • maternal and child health
  • early childhood education and care
  • family support
  • preschools and schools
  • local government and council support.

The program is jointly funded by us and the Department of Health.

How does it work?

Connected Beginnings is administered through a ‘restricted non-competitive selection process’. This means that we invite specific organisations to apply for the grant.

Connected Beginnings is community owned and led. This means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a say in how activities funded by the grant are delivered to their people, in their own places and on their own country.

Connected Beginnings is a ‘place-based’ grant. This means the grant must be used to meet the unique requirements of the local community. Activities must centre on the needs of the people in that community.

Connected Beginnings uses a collective impact approach. This means that community members and organisations work together to:

  • identify the community’s strengths, skills and resources
  • identify issues affecting their community
  • co-design solutions to these issues.

Closing the Gap

Connected Beginnings is a Closing the Gap measure. It supports all Closing the Gap priority reforms and focuses on targets 2, 3 and 4.

Backbone organisations

Grant recipients are called ‘backbone’ organisations. Backbone teams work with communities to co‑design goals and solutions to support children. This ensures Connected Beginnings:

  • is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • funds meaningful activities delivered in place and on country
  • funds solutions that meet the unique needs of each community.

Backbone teams generally comprise 3–6 roles, which may include:

  • project director
  • project coordinator
  • community engagement officer
  • family engagement officer.
  • Backbone teams work with Aboriginal-controlled services, schools, community groups, Elders and leaders to establish a governance structure. Together they use local language, culture and storytelling to develop action plans.

Community Partner

The Community Partner is a national organisation contracted to oversee key aspects of the grant, including:

  • scoping new Connected Beginnings sites
  • offering foundational support to new sites
  • providing ongoing support to existing sites.

Current projects

State Location
NSW Doonside
NSW Mount Druitt
NSW Taree
NSW Bourke
NT Alice Springs
NT Galiwin’ku
NT Tennant Creek
NT Angurugu
QLD Doomadgee (Mt Isa)
QLD Rasmussen
QLD Mareeba
SA Ceduna
SA Port Augusta
SA  Salisbury/Playford
TAS Bridgewater/Gagebrook
TAS Burnie
TAS George Town
VIC Mildura
VIC Shepparton
WA Kalgoorlie
WA Derby
WA Roebourne
WA Armadale West
WA Bidyadanga
WA Central Great Southern (Katanning)

When and how are grants offered?

Site selection

When determining communities of need, we consider:

  • child development needs, as shown by the Australian Early Development Census
  • population size and socioeconomic data
  • consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies and state and territory government agencies.

Site establishment

Once we have selected a site, we start extensive community consultations. This helps us decide whether and how to establish a Connected Beginnings project. This happens in three phases:

  1. Consultation with community leaders and service providers

The community must have a shared vision for early childhood development. We also consider the community’s willingness, capacity and capability to lead the effort.

  1. Readiness assessment

We work with the community to confirm they understand Connected Beginnings and want to be considered for a grant.

Together, we map out what a Connected Beginnings project could look like. We also identify which organisation is best placed to receive a grant offer.

If a community decides it is not ready for a Connected Beginnings project, we won’t make a grant offer.

  1. Invite organisations to apply

Organisations that want to apply can get help from the Community Partner during the application process. Successful applicants become the backbone organisation.

Generally, we offer 6–8 grants per year.

How do I apply?

When we issue a grant offer, we will let you know what you need to do.

If you are successful applying for a grant, you must enter into a grant agreement. View a sample grant agreement.

What can grant money be used for?

Connected Beginnings activities must be place-based and use collective impact approaches.

Grants can be used to fund activities like:

  • establishing a small backbone team
  • operating expenses like rent, lease of computers, phones and administration
  • connecting local children and families to support services
  • developing engagement resources
  • community engagement events
  • developing and implementing a shared governance model
  • developing and implementing data sharing and evaluation arrangements
  • developing and delivering training packages for staff in community organisations
  • professional development including capacity building, community research, collective impact and trauma training.

Evidence and evaluation

Connected Beginnings was evaluated in 2019. Read the evaluation report. The program will be next evaluated in 2022.

Connected Beginnings targets some of the most disadvantaged communities across Australia. It is designed to improve children’s school readiness. Success measures to date include:

  • an 8% increase in the number of children aged 60–72 months who are fully immunised
  • an increase in education and care attendance of 12 average hours per child from 2018 to 2020
  • 45% of pregnant women receiving antenatal care visits at 13 weeks (33% national average).


Currently, Connected Beginnings supports 31 sites. In 2021 the Australian Government committed an extra $81.8 million to expand Connected Beginnings to 50 sites nationally by 2025.

The expansion includes:

  • a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce to employ local people
  • broader, more extensive and longer consultation and community engagement
  • increased support from the Community Partner role
  • better data collection, project reporting, monitoring and evaluation
  • a greater focus on bringing service provider organisations and community leaders together
  • increased community consultation through the site scoping and site readiness process
  • supporting participation of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations.

Connected Beginnings advisory group

The departmental advisory group:

  • provides high level advice and guidance on the program’s expansion
  • strengthens how the program will embed the Closing the Gap Priority Reforms.

The group is co-chaired by SNAICC and comprises leaders in:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait early years
  • child and maternal health
  • research and evaluation.


More information and contacts

Connected Beginnings is funded by us and the Department of Health and Aged Care.

Visit the Department of Health and Aged Care website for more information.

If you have more questions, email