Australian Government Department of Health
The Connected Beginnings program supports early childhood and health services to work together to better prepare Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children for school in selected communities. The overall aim of the program is to decrease the disparities in school readiness and educational outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.
The program is jointly funded by the Australian Government Departments of Health and Aged Care and Education. The Department of Education funded ‘lead agencies’ (such as schools, child and family centres and early childhood education services) to provide program leadership and strengthen the integration of services, while the Department of Health funded the delivery of health services to support improved health outcomes and achievement of developmental milestones among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
AHA evaluated the implementation of Connected Beginnings at 14 sites across Australia, involving 25 funded organisations. Our program evaluation identified the factors contributing to the program’s success and how it benefitted individual communities. The evaluation was designed to inform the development of future education and health services and the future directions of the program.
Our evaluation used methods firmly grounded in recognition of the cultural sensitivities that apply when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and of the considerations particular to each community.
Over the period of the evaluation, implementation of the Connected Beginnings program evolved to include an explicit focus on extensive community engagement and collaboration between all stakeholders. Our evaluation therefore evolved to include factors and considerations relevant to a Collective Impact approach – i.e. one that is based on a common agenda, continuous communication, mutually-reinforcing activities, ‘backbone support’ (such as that provided by the lead agencies), and shared measurement.
AHA’s evaluation found that Connected Beginnings can provide an effective framework to support the integration of services across health, education and family support systems. The program is ongoing and expanding, with plans to extend it to 50 sites by 2025.
Our final report is available on the Department of Education website.
Connected Beginnings aims to decrease the disparities in school readiness and educational outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.