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.

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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 up to 20 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.

Replicating the Early Years Education Program

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

The Australian Government has committed $9 million to support replication of the program at four new trial 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 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.

New early learning teaching model

The Australian Government has committed $1.9 million to design, implement and evaluate a new early learning teaching model.

The teaching model will focus on helping First Nations children prepare for school. It will do this by strengthening literacy and numeracy skills.

Three services will take part in the trial. Two trial sites will be located in urban and regional settings in the Northern Territory and Victoria.

The trial will draw on:

  • international evidence, which indicates explicit instructional approaches can be more effective for some cohorts
  • local expertise regarding the benefits of different instructional models.

It will also align with existing play-based early learning frameworks that are known to improve children’s early developmental outcomes.