Improving early childhood outcomes together in Goodna
Despite many years of quality service delivery from which many people in Goodna (east Ipswich, Queensland) have benefited,
36% of children in the area still start school ‘developmentally vulnerable’ according to the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).
No single organisation currently has a thorough understanding of the complex reasons why this is so much higher than the state and national averages or why it has declined since the last data in 2012 – and has the capacity to respond effectively. But with strong evidence highlighting the broad community benefits of targeted investments in early childhood development, we know it is crucial to ensure Goodna’s 1,000+ children under five develop the skills they need to thrive at school and in later life.
In early 2015 United Way began consultations with local pre-schools, family daycares, community centres and services in Goodna on the potential of running Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library – a free monthly book program for 0-5 year old children – and how we might work together to improve local early childhood outcomes. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with many of these organisations, plus maternal and child health nurses and libraries starting to register local children, parents and carers to the program shortly afterwards.
While local families began experiencing benefits, it was clear more needed to be done to really ‘shift the dial’ for Goodna’s children. Through working and living in Goodna, our partners agreed there are significant benefits to be gained from increasing collaboration between local services, pre-schools, schools, community organisations and government to create the community and system-wide change needed. United Way began this coordinating role, bringing people across Goodna together at the same table to explore common issues, investigate the underlying causes of childhood vulnerabilities, and discuss ways we can move forward together.
Today, United Way co-chairs the Goodna-Gailes AEDC Working Group with Mission Australia. The group includes representatives from local council, pre-schools, schools, government, local leaders, indigenous health organisations, refugee settlement services, foster care agencies, and the local community house. It’s a highly motivated group that knew comprehensive data would be required to fully understand the issues, before taking action to fill the gaps. This research phase – collating population and schools-based data, conducting community surveys and mapping services – is currently underway and has already yielded insights. Goodna is highly multicultural and recently became an official refugee resettlement area, it has pockets of high unemployment and low educational attainment and a high rate of transience among residents.
While coordinating efforts to deliver the wide-scale community and systems-change needed takes time – and it is early days for this collaboration – change is already occurring. Data insights have enabled a shift in approach to community outreach to better target pockets of disadvantage in the suburb and improve access to existing services for those in most in need. Local schools have begun sharing data and will collect new annual entry level information on early childhood development to enable a more coordinated, targeted response. This research phase will soon be complete, providing the group with a holistic understanding of what is required to meet the community’s needs, what needs to change, and how we will work together to do it.
Are you interested in being part of this change in Goodna or any of the other locations we work in? Please contact us today!