Connected Beginnings aims to help Close the Gap in Ceduna - Education Matters Magazine
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Connected Beginnings aims to help Close the Gap in Ceduna

Ceduna families are benefiting from the government’s new, community based Connected Beginnings program, linking healthcare and early childhood education, as the program continues its national rollout.

Connected Beginnings aims to help Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children in areas of high need be well prepared for school by supporting pregnant indigenous women, and indigenous children from birth to school age. Over time, it is anticipated the program will contribute to reducing the difference in school readiness and education outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous children.

Each year from July 2016, around $10 million is available to integrate early childhood, maternal and child health, and family support services with schools in a selected number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities experiencing disadvantage.

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said the program aims for healthy families and improved school readiness.

“Connected Beginnings helps children enjoy good health, to set them on the way to academic success and a lifetime of better opportunities,” Mr Wyatt said.

“It works by providing children and their families with holistic support through existing and expanded local services.”

Mr Wyatt officially launched the program on Wednesday at the Ceduna Koonibba Aboriginal Health service, where it is already helping to build better, stronger lives.

“The first five years of life is a critical time that ultimately helps shape every child’s future and is fundamental to Closing the Gap in health equality,” Mr Wyatt said.

“I know Ceduna Koonibba Aboriginal Health service has worked hard to attract professionals to fill five new positions to help support the program and local families.”

Through Connected Beginnings, Ceduna Koonibba Aboriginal Health service provides health checks to women, babies and children up to school age.

“This means mothers and children in this community are being referred to specialist services including paediatricians, ear and eye specialists, dentists, occupational and speech therapists and dieticians,” Mr Wyatt said.

“The social and emotional wellbeing team here also provide much-needed support for mums experiencing anxiety and depression, plus an environmental health program that targets everyday housing and community living conditions, essential to maintain health and prevent disease transmission.”

Senator David Fawcett welcomed the extension of the Connected Beginnings program to Ceduna.

“Wrapping services including early childhood education, maternal and child health, and family services helps families now and will help generations to come,” Mr Fawcett said.

“Ceduna Koonibba Aboriginal Health service has a strong working relationship with the Ceduna District Health Service through a memorandum of understanding, and works closely with the Aboriginal Maternal Infant Care worker.”

Run jointly by the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Health, Connected Beginnings programs are now underway in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Galiwin’ku, Ceduna, Port Augusta, Mildura, Doomadgee and Doonside, along with a health-only program in Canberra.

Opportunities are being investigated to establish the program in further locations this year, including in Western Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania.

The Australian Government has committed $12 million over three years from the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme to implement the health component of Connected Beginnings, plus around $10 million per year from the Community Child Care Fund to support the education component.

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