A child’s early development affects not just their childhood years but also lays a foundation for their adulthood lives.
This has been acknowledged and studied for many years. In the 1990s, internationally renowned child health experts Dr Dan Offord and Dr Magdalena Janus developed the Early Development Instrument in Canada to measure the developmental health and wellbeing of populations of young children.
In 2003 the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) hosted a two day facilitated national meeting in Melbourne (funded by the Australian Government) to determine if the Early Development Instrument could or should be adapted for Australia given the increasing interest in early childhood. There was a strong consensus support from the approximately 50 attendees present – representatives of federal and state governments, and health and educational academics and practitioners from around the country. CCCH then obtained federal funding to undertake a national pilot of the AEDI in over 60 communities; the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) was created. During the period 2004-2008 CCCH led the implementation of the AEDI in Australia in partnership with the Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) (formerly known as the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research) and the Australian Government.
In 2009, Australia became the first country in the world to collect national data on the developmental health of all children starting school after the Australian government funded the national rollout of the AEDI. Through a strong working relationship between the Australian government, and all State and Territory governments, CCCH together with TKI ensured that the necessary community support, data collection and backup IT systems were in place to make certain that the 2009 data collection was a success.
The success of the 2009 AEDI led to the Australian Government’s commitment to the ongoing national measurement of the health and wellbeing of Australian children.
In 2014, the Australian Early Development Index program was renamed the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). For future data collections, in order to avoid confusion of the program with the data collection tool, the name of the tool reverted to the original Early Development Instrument, with a note of it being the Australian version.
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 nationwide.