Development of the AEDC

Development of the AEDC

In 2014, the Australian Early Development Index program became the Australian Early Development Census.

The Early Development Instrument was developed in Canada in the 1990s to measure the developmental health and wellbeing of populations of young children. It was developed by internationally renowned child health experts Dr Dan Offord and Dr Magdalena Janus, at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada. The late Dr Clyde Hertzman’s inspiring and vital work in population health and early childhood development research was also fundamental.

Following on from the Canadian Early Development Instrument, the Australia Early Development Instrument was established through a strong working relationship between the Centre for Community Child Health and the Telethon Kids Institute (formerly the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research), as well as the Australian government and all state and territory governments.

The initial pilot work of the Early Development Instrument in Australia was undertaken in 2002-2003 by the Telethon Kids Institute and the regional Department of Health in north metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. Then from 2004-2008 the Centre for Community Child Health, in partnership with the Telethon Kids Institute and the Australian government, adapted the Canadian Early Development Instrument for use in Australia. The Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) was created. Through a series of validity studies and implementation piloting in 60 communities across Australia, the Early Development Instrument was refined for Australian use. This landmark project was known as the Australian Early Development Index: Building Better Communities for Children.   

In 2009, Australia became the first country in the world to collect national data on the developmental health of all children starting school when the Australian government funded the national rollout of the AEDI. Teachers completed the AEDI for each child who started school in 2009, based on their knowledge and observation of the child in their class, along with demographic information from school enrolment forms.

The success of the 2009 AEDI laid the foundation for the Australian Government’s commitment to ongoing AEDI data collection cycles. The second collection occurred in 2012.

The Centre for Community Child Health and the Telethon Kids Institute used further research to refine the AEDI and ensure its relevance to Australia's culturally diverse population. The Centre for Community Child Health built and managed the first secure web-based data-entry system for the AEDI and established the AEDI National Support Centre. In addition, the Centre for Community Child Health built an AEDI website to display community results and worked to inform Australians about how those results were being used to improve services in their community.

The Australian Early Development Census, created from the AEDI, recognises the scale, breadth and depth of commitment of the Australian Government to undertaking this national population measure of early childhood development.

Building on the research, knowledge and expansive resources developed to date, the Australian Government continues to work with State and Territory governments, and with its partners, the Centre for Community Child Health and the Telethon Kids Institute, to implement the AEDC as an ongoing nationwide programme.