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Title: Early childhood and education services for Indigenous children prior to starting school
Contributor(s): Sims, Margaret  (author)orcid 
Corporate Author: Closing the Gap Clearinghouse
Publication Date: 2011
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Abstract: The National Partnership Agreement for Indigenous Early Childhood Development (COAG 2008a) aims to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade, halve the gap for Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade, and ensure all Indigenous 4-year-olds have access to quality early childhood education within five years, including in remote areas. Currently 75% of Indigenous children between 3.5 and 4.5 years of age do not attend any formal early childhood service (FaHCSIA 2009). Of those who do, 34% are attending a community-based (i.e. non-school) program, 30% a kindergarten or pre-first year of school program in a school setting or a preschool, 21% a child care program and 2% family day care. Of the infant cohort, 29% had attended a playgroup or similar group in the month prior to data collection. Alternative care was provided for the children by the child's other parent (51%), grandparents (49%), other relatives (30%) and a parent living elsewhere (6%). In order to achieve these targets it is important to understand that early childhood education cannot be separated from child, family and community health and wellbeing. In acting on this understanding, Indigenous early childhood programs in Australia are sometimes interpreted as 'leading the way' in current attempts to reinterpret early childhood education as a strategy to address social inclusion (Sims et al. 2008). Internationally, such a perspective is often positioned as quality early intervention or, more recently, integrated service delivery (Azzi-Lessing 2010; Katz & Redmond 2009; Melhuish et al. 2010) which is known to be particularly effective for addressing disadvantage. Addressing disadvantage in the early years requires a holistic approach that addresses children and families in the context of their communities and cultures (Hallam 2008; Watson & Tully 2008), taking into account children's physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing and development. This means, in considering Indigenous early education, non-Indigenous policy makers and service deliverers need to clearly understand their assumptions based on experiences with non-Indigenous early education. There is no doubt that readiness for school is a key factor in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Australian Government 2010), but it is not the only factor to consider and programs are now beginning to address issues such as family support and the provision of non-centre-based services.
Publication Type: Report
Publisher: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Institute of Family Studies
Place of Publication: Canberra and Melbourne, Australia
ISBN: 9781742491561
Field of Research (FoR) 2008: 160702 Counselling, Welfare and Community Services
130102 Early Childhood Education (excl Maori)
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 940105 Childrens/Youth Services and Childcare
939901 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education
940112 Families and Family Services
HERDC Category Description: R1 Report
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Series Name: Closing the Gap Clearinghouse Resource Sheet
Series Number : 7
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