Enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to thrive in their early years

Miss Andria Mastroianni1, Ms Sue-Anne  Hunter1

1SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, Australia

In 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap adopted a target to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children developmentally on track against all five domains of the AEDC from 35% in 2018 to 55% by 2031. Whilst gains were made between the 2009 and 2015 AEDC towards closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children developmentally on track, these gains were not sustained in the 2018 AEDC.

The Closing the Gap target has been designed as a ‘strengths-based’ target to focus on children who are on track. However, if approached the wrong way this target could drive mainstream policies that help to lift some of the children in the middle ‘at-risk’ category to ‘on track,’ but leave behind those in the ‘vulnerable’ category who require more targeted supports.

The gains that were made in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children developmentally on track on all five domains between 2009 and 2015 were not made in the rates of children experiencing vulnerability. Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 2.5 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable in two or more domains than their non-Indigenous peers. These rates have shown no significant improvement, declining slightly over the past decade.

Changes must be made to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who most require access to quality early childhood support services are able to access them. This presentation will explore the fundamental role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood services in achieving the Closing the Gap AEDC target, and how policy and funding models must shift to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to thrive in their early years.


Biography:

Sue-Anne Hunter is a proud Wurundjeri and Ngurai illum wurrung woman and the national sector development manager with SNAICC – National Voice for our Children and Family Matters Co-Char. With a background in social work and trauma therapy, Sue-Anne led practice at the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) and continues to work at a national level to advocate for greater cultural understanding and healing for our children and families.

Andria Mastroianni is a lawyer and policy officer at SNAICC – National Voice for our Children. Andria has a specialised focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood education and working to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are given the supports they need to thrive.