300,000 children start school every year in Australia and we know that 90% of their brain development has already happened by this time.
1 in 5 children are developmentally vulnerable and not growing up well, including 41% of First Nations children (AEDC 2018). This has a profound impact upon these children, their families and their communities. This early vulnerability is strongly correlated to challenges later in life.
Investment in early childhood development is critical and smart. It secures the future potential of children, helps build our society and reduces inequity. It decreases health, welfare and justice spending and realises economic returns for all ($1 invested returns $13, Heckman).
However, Australia’s approach to reducing early childhood vulnerability is fragmented and uncoordinated. It simply doesn’t address the complexity of community needs in disadvantaged areas.
So communities are taking matters into their own hands by using place-based initiatives to help ‘the system’ work better for local people and their children. Nearly 100 of these initiatives exist across Australia already. They are built around a ‘backbone’ team or other community structure with dedicated staff whose role it is to help citizens and local organisations shift from acting alone to acting in concert.
Opportunity Child is currently working with 14 of these initiatives and this number is growing. These initiatives are focused on improving early childhood outcomes.