Closing the Gap in early childhood

The Australian Government is investing in targeted measures to improve the lives of First Nations children through better access to quality early childhood education and care.

On this page:

Closing the Gap Implementation Plan

In 2021, the Australian Government released its first Closing the Gap Implementation Plan.

First Nations children are less likely to take part in quality early childhood programs than non-Indigenous children. This is particularly true for those in remote and regional areas. These investments will help:

  • bridge the gaps
  • improve school readiness
  • reduce developmental vulnerability.

We will deliver these measures by working with First Nations peak bodies, organisations and communities.

Expansion of Connected Beginnings

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 Australian Government has committed $81.8 million to expand the program. This will grow the program from 22 to 50 sites across Australia by 2025.

Selection of the new sites will be informed by:

  • analysis of population and socio-economic data
  • information from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC)
  • First Nations stakeholder partnerships and local community engagement.

The expansion will benefit 8,550 children in remote or disadvantaged communities.

Expansion of the Community Child Care Fund restricted grant

The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) restricted grant supports identified early childhood education and care services in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

The Australian Government has committed $29.9 million to establish new CCCF restricted services.

We are working with First Nations peak bodies, communities and organisations to establish these new services.

The aim is to increase participation rates of First Nations children in early childhood education and care settings.

The new services will be delivered, where possible, by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations. This is in line with the Closing the Gap National Agreement.

An intensive early childhood education and care model trial

The Australian Government has committed $9.5 million to support a trial of an intensive early childhood education and care model at four new sites. The Parkville Institute is leading the delivery of the trial. Australian Government funding is supplemented by philanthropic and state and territory government support.

The model offers:

  • high quality, intensive early education and care
  • infant mental health and wrap around family support
  • access to educational, health and social services to redress harm and overcome trauma
  • support for at-risk and disadvantaged children and families to improve learning and development.

The model is for children from birth up to three years. The model has had a positive impact on school readiness in key areas such as IQ and language skills.

The trial will include a dedicated First Nations site, in partnership with:

The goal of the trial is to improve educational outcomes, with a focus on bridging the gap to school readiness.

For more information on the trial, visit the Parkville Institute website.

Early Learning Teaching Pilot

The Australian Government has committed $1.9 million to design, implement and evaluate a new Early Learning Teaching Pilot.

The Government has partnered with the University of Melbourne to deliver and evaluate the pilot at three services, the first is Yappera Children’s Service in Thornbury Victoria, with the remaining sites yet to be announced.

The pilot will focus on helping First Nations children prepare for school. It will do this by strengthening literacy and numeracy skills through strengthened professional development, mentoring and feedback support for educators.

The pilot will draw on international evidence and local expertise regarding the benefits of different instructional models.

The pilot aligns with existing play-based approaches under the Australian Early Years Learning Framework, known to improve children’s early developmental outcomes.

Activity test for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children

Families can get at least 36 hours of Child Care Subsidy (CCS) fortnight for each Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child in their care. This is regardless of their family’s activity level.

This measure will directly support Closing the Gap target 4.

Learn more about changes to the activity test for First Nations families.