Children’s Ground: Backing Aboriginal people to lead the way in systems and service reform

Ms Jen Lorains1, Ms Felicity  Hayes1

1Children’s Ground, Alice Springs , Australia


Children’s Ground (CG) is a whole-of-community approach, with a focus on children pre-birth and throughout early childhood. Over 25-years First Nations cultural and community leaders are leading the implementation of the CG Approach –which was designed by First Nations people as their solution to change the future for their children and grandchildren.

Responding to social and cultural determinants of learning, health, wellbeing and life, CG is backing First Nations people to lead the way in systems and service design, delivery and evaluation. In each community families are working at CG to deliver early childhood learning and health promotion with children and their families (integrating cultural and western approaches), family employment and community and cultural development. At the centre of the CG Approach is First Nations people, culture, governance/decision-making.

In 2017 (year one) of Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe (CG-Central Australia), the First Nations Governance Group assessed their greatest achievement as ACTION and doing it themselves. Each year Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe has increased delivery and child/family engagement and now work with five culturally connected communities in Central Australia.

Embedded in daily delivery is a longitudinal evaluation that monitors and measures short, medium and long-term progress and learnings of activities, services and impact. Led by First Nations communities, the evaluation is evidencing how policy-makers, researchers, services and communities can give First Nations families a genuine voice and opportunity as the decision-makers who design, deliver and evaluate the services funded to improve their outcomes.

Early evidence from the CG Approach is demonstrating that children and families who were previously systematically and culturally excluded from learning, health, employment and social services, are now engaging and leading the way in changing the future for the next generation.

This presentation shares evaluation findings about how First Nations rights and culture can be respected and enacted within services to create change.



Jen Lorains is the Director of Research & Evaluation at Children’s Ground. She works with each community to evaluate and evidence the impact of Children’s Ground’s systems reform and integrated service platform. Jen has over 15 years experience designing and undertaking research and evaluation with communities and services.

Felicity is an Arrernte Elder, educator and Traditional Owner for Alice Springs. She has been one of the senior leaders of Children’s Ground since the beginning and provides leadership in planning, education and child development. For decades Felicity has campaigned for her family’s right to live and teach their children on country.