Early Childhood Initiatives

We all benefit when children thrive

Families, communities, businesses, governments – we all benefit when children start school with the skills they need to learn and thrive.

But sadly today 22% of Australian children start school ‘developmentally vulnerable’ – a statistic that is even higher for children living in low socio-economic areas. Research shows that if these children start school behind, they’re likely to continue on a poor developmental trajectory at school and in later life.

We believe that the postcode people are born in should not determine their destiny, that the causes of entrenched community disadvantage in Australia are complex and that no single organisation can solve these issues alone. We need to work together to ensure every child can learn at school and thrive in later life.

Our goal is that children are successful learners and healthy in the early primary grades, so they can thrive at school and in later life.

Here’s how with your support, we’re working to give thousands of children across Australia the chance of a brighter future.

Collective Impact

Collective Impact is an innovative approach to addressing complex social issues in a particular community. It focuses on developing a shared agenda to address locally identified issues and encourages cross-sector collaborative action to maximise impact. It is United Way’s ‘deepest dive’ into a particular community, requiring significant long-term investment to create long term community and systems change.

United Way is the backbone organisation for The Hive, a Collective Impact initiative involving local community, philanthropy, government and service providers in the Mt Druitt NSW area. The Hive’s focus is developing new approaches to the challenges faced by 0-8 year old children in Mt Druitt, with the goal of ensuring every child in the 2770 postcode can start school well.


United Way has staff on the ground mobilising collaborative responses to improve early childhood outcomes in ten communities where a high proportion of children start school ‘developmentally vulnerable’.

In these community collaborations we work to understand the issues and facilitate joint responses to address these by:

  • mobilising financial and in-kind support
  • identifying and connecting children with existing support and services
  • developing, trialling and evaluating initiatives to address gaps with local families, preschools, schools, community organisations, businesses, government and others.

Products and support

United Way supports community organisations and service providers to create a greater impact for children in communities of disadvantage via advice, consultancy services, support and products.

Our best known product is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a community-based program providing 0-5 year old children with free home-delivered books and parent/carer literacy resources each month. Almost than 200,000 books have been distributed to over 8000 children in Australia so far!

Find out how your organisation can start an Imagination Library to strengthen your early childhood work today – it’s easy!