The NSW Department of Education has announced a five-year plan for supporting 0-5 year-old Aboriginal children to embrace their culture and identity.

The department says it is “committed to ensuring the best educational outcomes for Aboriginal children aged 0-5. We want to ensure that every Aboriginal child and family feels welcomed and that their culture is valued at their ECE service.”

First Steps – the NSW Aboriginal Children’s ECE Strategy provides a roadmap to achieving the best educational outcomes for Aboriginal children aged 0-5. It supports renewed reform under Closing the Gap and the 10-year partnership between the department and the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG).

The department has been working in collaboration with the NSW AECG towards better educational outcomes for Aboriginal children. This is now formalised in its 10-year partnership with the NSW AECG between 2020 and 2030.

The evidence shows us that Aboriginal children have better educational outcomes when their education enhances their identity as Aboriginal people.

The First Steps Strategy has been developed in consultation with members of the NSW Department of Education’s Early Childhood Education Aboriginal Advisory Group. Their voice and guidance have enabled the department to connect the national ambitions of Closing The Gap to the reality of what happens in early childhood services and communities across NSW every day.

First Steps Strategy goals

The strategy outlines three key goals for Aboriginal Children and families in NSW – for children, family and kinship groups and learning.

Child: All Aboriginal children and their families are supported to enrol in quality culturally inclusive ECE.

Family and kinship: All Aboriginal families and children feel respected in ECE services as their culture is celebrated and nourished.

Learning: Aboriginal Children are provided access to ECE that drives stronger outcomes through strengths-based approaches and all children have a sense of pride in Aboriginal people, cultures and histories in NSW.

Targets

The First Steps strategy has 5 initial targets:

  1. 95% of Aboriginal children will be enrolled in the year before school starts by 2025.
  2. 55% of Aboriginal Children will be assessed as developmentally on track in all five domains of the Australian Early Development Census by 2031.
  3. 50% of Aboriginal children in ECE will have access to an Aboriginal language program by 2025.
  4. 3% of staff working in the department’s ECE directorates will be Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  5. 100% of staff working in the department’s ECE directorates will have completed or commenced cultural awareness/safety training by 2025.

Additionally, the department is committed to increasing the capacity and number of Aboriginal community controlled ECE services in NSW.

Funding priorities

Universal Access National Partnership Funds have been committed over five years to support initial start-up initiatives to support the department’s commitment to the First Steps strategy. These start-up initiatives include:

  • Expanding and redesigning the Aboriginal language program Ninganah No More
  • Expanding and redesigning Aboriginal Families as Teachers program
  • Supporting the sustainability and expansion of the Aboriginal ECE sector
  • Coverage of operational and staffing expenses factored into the initial investment

The department will continue to work with the Aboriginal ECE advisory group, Aboriginal communities, organisations, and families to develop initiatives under this strategy. This collaborative structure will be key to its success.