Determined that no child in Parkes Shire would be an invisible child, Project Sprouts was formed as a new community led model to address children’s developmental health in rural NSW

Mrs Fiona Francis1, Mrs Sherree Rosser1

1Project Sprouts, Parkes, Australia


The seeds for Project Sprouts were planted in 2018, when Royal Far West held a community meeting in Parkes to discuss the confronting findings from its ‘The Invisible Children’ report about the state of children’s developmental health in rural and remote Australia.

  • 22% (AEDC 2018) of children in the Parkes Shire start school with one developmental challenge (the national average is 20%)
  • 11.4% (AEDC 2018) start school with two developmental challenges (NSW average is 9.6%)

Serious concerns were raised by the community around the growing rates of mental health and developmental vulnerabilities in young children in the Parkes Shire, coupled by the lack of access to services, teacher training and support.

Determined that no child in Parkes would be an Invisible Child, Project Sprouts was formed.  With representatives from local schools, preschools, government, business, and community organisations, the community is creating a working model to screen children for developmental health before they start school, to support parents and upskill local people to better identify children needing early intervention support.

Where no local services are available, Royal Far West is providing health and developmental screenings, as well as training to increase community understanding of child development.

While there is a great need for assistance in Parkes Shire and regional Australia, these geographies have the least access to specialist developmental services. Distances, lack of information, cost and disruption of travel, and sheer difficulty of diagnosing complex developmental conditions are all contributing factors.

Project Sprouts is intended to develop into a referral service linking families and educators to service providers.

The primary focus for local Coordinator, Fiona Francis, is to facilitate communication between families, paediatric health providers and education in the screening and therapy of children aged 4 and 5 to ensure their best start to formal schooling.


Sherree Rosser is a Retired Educator from NSW Department of Education and Communities – 40 years in Central West NSW including Assistant Principal for 17 years and Principal for 7 years at Middleton Public School Parkes. Principal Consultant in School Planning 2012. Current teaching practice Literacy Support Year One.

Sherree has extensive experience in Special Education and Early Years K-2. In 2003, Sherree’s dedication to excellence was recognised with NSW ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award.

Sherree is a Working Party member of Project Sprouts, and was a key speaker at the Royal Far West community meeting in June 2018.