Mid Murray Family Connections
The Mid Murray Council in South Australia is leading the way in using a collective impact approach to support families and children. The Council formed the Mid Murray Family Connections (MMFC) Collective Impact initiative in 2013 in response to the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) results. The 2012 Census showed that the Mid Murray had the second highest proportion of children developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains in South Australia – around 1 in 3 children.
Recognising that children’s development is a shared responsibility, the Council established a cross-sector network of around 40 partners that service and/or live in the area, including early childhood, education, physical and mental health, child protection, youth, church groups, Aboriginal culture and community services. All members are passionate about working to improve the wellbeing of young children in the Mid Murray region as part of MMFC. The network meets regularly and is supported by a coordinator and family participation worker appointed by the Mid Murray Council.
The network invested time to understand the data and seek different perspectives about the underlying causes of the community’s AEDC results. They have developed a plan to reduce developmental vulnerability in the emotional maturity domain, which was of particular concern when considering both the ‘at risk’ and ‘developmentally vulnerable’ results.
The resulting MMFC Community Accountability Plan was launched in October 2016. It highlights four areas of focus for children from conception to eight years old that will contribute to achieving the overarching outcome of improved wellbeing and emotional maturity. The focus areas are:
- building: attachment between children and their caregivers
- developing emotional resilience
- fostering engaged learners
- working to ensure that children and their caregivers being safe and supported.
Strategies and actions to achieve these results are included in the Plan, along with indicators, progress measures and partners.
The 2015 AEDC showed some heartening results for the Mid Murray community. The MMFC remains committed to achieving its aim of children enjoying positive wellbeing and emotional maturity. The group is now forming committees for each of the four result areas to lead the actions and measure progress.
Linking the AEDC, National Quality Framework and Early Years Learning Framework
As a national measure of early childhood development, the AEDC reports on domains that closely link to the National Quality Standards (NQS) and the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) Learning Outcomes. Results from the AEDC can provide educators with a valuable resource for planning and engaging communities to work towards positive developmental outcomes for children
Alpha Sprouts Academy, a pre-kindy service provider operating in the fast growing metropolitan suburb of Baldivis, Western Australia, has redefined its approach to early childhood development by recognizing the important links that exist between the AEDC and the NQS and EYLF.
A key turning point for the Academy to re-assess its practices were the high levels of vulnerability experienced by children in their community, as evidenced by the 2012 AEDC results for Baldivis. Results showed that 23.4 per cent of children were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains and around 12.8 per cent were developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains. In the area of social competence, 11.2 per cent of children also had high levels of vulnerability, which was higher than the national average of 9.3 per cent. These results reflected the observations of staff at the Academy who noted that children displayed signs of anxiety, hyperactivity, reduced concentration and other challenging behaviours.
In response, the Academy introduced an integrated approach to early childhood development that used AEDC results as measurable outcomes to achieve the developmental milestones outlined in the NQS and EYLF. Under this new initiative, the Academy developed a synthesised AEDC, AQF and EYLF parental feedback tool which was complemented by a strong culture of learning and consultative dialogue with parents, staff, students and local schools, specifically focused on improving children’s social and emotional competencies and skills. These connections have opened up access to much needed local services for children and families in Baldivis, such as the local library and the community centre, including child health nurses, local speech pathologists and the community garden.
With support from Child Australia and the Western Australian AEDC State Coordinator, Alpha Sprouts Academy will continue to use the parental feedback tool to collect information on progress to inform its policies and professional practice to give children in Baldivis the best start in life.
To read the full story, refer to the Community Story: Alpha Sprouts Academy.
Enhanced Transition to School Project – Playfully preparing for school
The Enhanced Transition to School (ETTS) project is part of Western Australia’s broader early years’ strategy that supports the home learning environment and builds community and family relationships. This sets foundations for children’s successful transition to school and ensures that more children are developmentally ‘on-track’.
Led by a broad-based partnership between the Department of Education, Playgroup WA, the Department of Local Government and Communities, and the non-government school sector, the ETTS project supports the establishment of community based playgroups on or near a school site, enabling children and families to become familiar with the school environment. The initiative aims to enhance confidence among all families in their role as their child’s first ‘teacher’; enrich home learning experiences for children prior to Kindergarten, and supports stronger and more enduring home-school collaboration. These project aims are underpinned by research using AEDC data, which showed that children who participated in a community playgroup generally displayed lower rates of developmental vulnerability across AEDC domains.
Since the inception of the ETTS project in December 2016, the number of playgroups hosted on school sites has increased from 47 to 119 providing 168 sessions. This initiative has also encouraged non-host schools to develop relationships with playgroups in their local area. As the project continues to grow, it will contribute to the evidence-base supporting positive transitions to schools for children. A final report of the program is expected in January 2020.
To read the full story, refer to the Community Story: Enhanced Transition to School Project.
 ‘It takes a village to raise a child: The influence and impact of playgroups across Australia’. Gregory, T., Harman-Smith, Y., Sincovich, A., Wilson, A., & Brinkman, S. (2016). Telethon Kids Institute, South Australia. ISBN 978-0-9876002-4-0.