Source: Resource Sheet No. 7 for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Margaret Sims,
May 2011, Australian Government, Health and Welfare and Family Studies
Summary: 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.