Supporting Vulnerable Families & Communities to Achieve Better Developmental Outcomes for Their Children

Ms Ruth Callaghan1, Ms Manik Gadre1,2

1Woodville Alliance, Fairfield, Australia, 2TAFE NSW, Australia

AEDC data since 2009 has highlighted that an extremely high number of children in Fairfield LGA are developmentally vulnerable on many developmental domains. This disadvantage has continued to increase over these 12 years. A smaller number of children in Fairfield LGA – compared with NSW and national average – attend formal preschool programs, further impacting developmental milestones. Continuation of this trend can set in motion the cycle of intergenerational disadvantages.

According to ACECQA, the socio-economic status of the area co-relates to the quality of early childhood education & care services, meaning children from poorer neighbourhoods are less likely to access high quality early education, thus at greater risk of developmental vulnerability.

ABS data informs us that the Fairfield LGA has a significantly high number of population who are from CALD backgrounds – almost 2/3rd of the population speaks English as a second language. ABS data also highlights that a high number of adults in Fairfield LGA have low educational attainment and low-income levels compared with greater Sydney region. In many cultures around the world, children informally learn from families and community. Early childhood education looks different across various parts of the world, including often informal education through wider community networks and spaces.

These researches have informed the development of Supported Playgroup at Woodville Alliance, as informal educational space. We employ a degree qualified early childhood teacher with special education background. Other staff includes experienced, multi-lingual community members; all enhancing the informal community networks. Regular family input supports our educational program for children; while feedback from families and observations of staff helps us to arrange ongoing parenting and family support programs. Our playgroups provide high quality, fun learning experiences for children and encourages families to incorporate learning through routines, everyday experiences, thus acting as a ‘soft entry point’ to early education.

Ruth Callaghan is the General Manager of Community Initiatives at Woodville Alliance and a Member of Australian Institute of Company Directors. Ruth has achieved MA in Policy Studies from UNSW. She is passionate about supporting wider community through operational service delivery as well as highly skilled in strategic directions and policy planning. Ruth has worked with a range of social justice issues i.e. disability, child protection & early intervention, early education and human rights. She has been instrumental in leading strategic policy advice to COAG during development of the National Quality Framework and the regulatory impact statement.