Federal Early Childhood Education Minister Anne Aly launches Connected Beginnings program

Jessica MoroneyNorth West Telegraph
Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education and Youth Dr Anne Aly, BACAC CEO Wayne McDonald and MLA Lara Dalton.
Camera IconFederal Minister for Early Childhood Education and Youth Dr Anne Aly, BACAC CEO Wayne McDonald and MLA Lara Dalton. Credit: Jessica Moroney/Geraldton Guardian

An early education program launched in South Hedland will benefit future generations’ schooling prospects and drive down juvenile crime, says Federal minister Anne Aly.

The Connected Beginnings program has been extended to include nine new sites across Australia, including Geraldton and South Hedland in WA, bringing the total number of locations to 34. The Federal Government has allocated more than $1.5 million to the Geraldton program and almost $1.7 million to the South Hedland program over three years.

The program aims to give a head start in life to First Nations children aged up to five through community engagement, connectedness and culturally appropriate partnerships.

Joined by community leaders and elders, Dr Aly, the Federal Early Childhood Education and Youth Minister, was in Geraldton on Friday to launch the expanded initiative, which she says has the potential to help 460 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Geraldton alone, based on program outcomes in other areas.

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Bundiyarra’s parenting engagement for change and Connected Beginnings community engagement teams will engage with service providers and stakeholders to provide culturally appropriate early education.

Dr Aly said the program would benefit the outcomes for future generations’ youth and reduce juvenile crime in a community-led, culturally responsive atmosphere.

“Too often what we see is that children born into any form of disadvantage carry that disadvantage through life. It doesn’t have to be that way, we have the capacity and the power to change a child’s trajectory,” she said.

“All the research tells us this that if you invest in those first five years, you have better outcomes later; better outcomes in terms of youth justice, better outcomes in terms of youth antisocial behaviour, better outcomes academically and in terms of educational performance as well.”

Dr Aly said Connected Beginnings was a stepping stone in reconnecting family services to better reach vulnerable youth.

“There is much more than we can be doing, we can be doing in connecting the services together and wrapping them around young people as we do with children. But everything must be community led and it has to be culturally responsive, and it has to be culturally appropriate,” she said.

“The programs themselves are developed by community, they’re community-led, they’re responsive to what the community says they need.”

Bundiyarra CEO Wayne McDonald said Connected Beginnings was all about closing the gap and working alongside service providers to educate and preserve culture.

“Very shortly they will actually be working in their own facility, which will be great, because that gives them that autonomy to be able to go out there and get the job done. We need to get it done, it’s about closing the gap, making sure that those aged 0-5 receive early childhood education very quickly,” he said.

Local mid-west elder Graham Taylor said it was time to bring together different community groups to connect elders with youth.

“I think we need to all be connected, we can’t be working in silos. The backbone team is a great model to be able to work amongst groups and develop those partnerships with different stakeholders in town,” he said.

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