Mr Shaun Harris1
1Blair Athol North B-7 School Children’s Centre, Blair Athol, Australia
Blair Athol North B-7 School is home to one of South Australia’s 48 Children’s Centres for early childhood development and parenting in South Australia. As the name suggests we are a 21st venture, technology rich learning environment that includes quality early years learning with strong early years partnerships to support families with young children. Inspired by modern early years practices our school design has enabled us to challenge traditional thinking about school and the learning environment. Innovation, risk taking and improved learning outcomes are key words for us. Our teachers are called ‘Learning Advisors’, our buildings are known as ‘Neighbourhoods’, and our classrooms are ‘Studio’s’.
Located in Blair Athol our vibrant community is culturally diverse and is home to over 50 cultural and language groups – with a higher proportion of Aboriginal families than most other areas in metropolitan SA. Behind the vibrant diversity our community, including suburbs of Kilburn, Blair Athol and surrounds, is also home to deep and persistent disadvantage – and is a community facing significant change.
Our 2012 development data was grim, with almost half of all children in our community measured as developmentally vulnerable in 1 or more domains. Attending the conference gave us insight into initiatives and projects from all over Australia that encouraged us to have conversations with local NGO partners – where we all agreed “We can do something about this”.
These conversations turned into meetings with action and as a result we were able to introduce on-site health and community partnerships. In partnership with local NGOs, health services and private providers we could no offer on-site access to services. Eventually, with partnerships, allies and a local collective impact initiative all working with common goals child vulnerability (in 1 or more domain) would be halved (according to 2019 data).
Shaun has been working with diverse communities in Adelaide’s Inner North for over a decade. As a self-proclaimed ‘creative beast’ and ‘Kenyonist’ Shaun is an experienced community developer currently working with children and their families to support early childhood development and parenting initiatives. Based in Blair Athol North Birth-7 School, Shaun is one of 47 Community Development Coordinators throughout South Australia who belong to the Department for Human Services’ Safer Family Services.