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Implementation of First 1000 Days Australia in Queensland Posted: Thursday 17 November 2016

What is First 1000 Days Australia?

The international First 1000 Days movement was established to improve the nutrition of parents and children from the time a child is conceived to their second birthday. The movement grew out of an understanding that not eating enough of the right things can forever affect a child’s future physical and mental development.

In 2015, the University of Melbourne held four national meetings to explore whether First 1000 Days could make a difference in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Meetings involved 323 participants from 107 different organisations, including early-life researchers, research institutions, policy-makers, professional associations and human rights activists with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service delivery organisations, peak bodies and families.

It was decided that in Australia the First 1000 Days movement will cover a broad range of issues which affect early child development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. This includes connection to culture and family networks, health, safety, housing, education and employment.

First 1000 Days Australia is focused on giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children the best possible start in life. To do this, it uses a ‘collective impact’ approach which involves bringing together a broad range of organisations and community leaders to work through a structured process to identify common goals, skills gaps and how everyone will work together to achieve long-lasting change.

First 1000 Days Australia will do this by establishing partnerships with a range of existing providers and build on existing programs and strategies. Where gaps are identified First 1000 Days Australia will work with providers to develop new initiatives focused on the needs and priorities specific to the local area. These new initiatives will be designed around three priority areas – multigenerational families, transitions to parenthood and comprehensive early life services. 

  • Core to First 1000 Days Australia is a belief that the role of protecting families is best undertaken by the family – a multigenerational approach that includes mothers, fathers and/or care givers, grandparents and other relatives that builds on the strength of families. 
  • Transitions to parenthood will include programs on choosing to become parents, supporting caring men and women, increasing pre-birth and early years support and developing supports for culturally informed parenting. 
  • Comprehensive early life services will move beyond clinical service provision. First 1000 Days will work with community leaders to make the most of what makes families strong and able to protect their children. This will be achieved by providing information and support through the use of household planning, life support and mentoring.

To ensure First 1000 Days Australia has a positive impact and builds an evidence base for the future, the Queensland sites will contribute to a national research program to improve service delivery, capacity building in families and family outcomes.

Where does First 1000 Days Australia sit within Supporting Families Changing Futures Reforms?

Toward a Queensland action plan for vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families announced the establishment of an Empowering Families Innovation Fund to reduce the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system. A total of $6 million is being provided over three years to support prevention and intervention programs to keep kids safe and well. The first significant initiative to be supported under the fund is the implementation of First 1000 Days Australia in Queensland. The Queensland Government will invest $1.5 million over three years to establish two First 1000 Days Australia sites in Queensland.

The first site to go live in early 2017 will be the Moreton Bay Family and Child Connect catchment (including Caboolture, Redcliffe and Strathpine). The Townsville Family and Child Connect catchment will follow in 2017–18. A phased implementation will allow Townsville learn from what worked in the initial implementation in Moreton Bay.

First 1000 Days Australia will work closely with new community-run family wellbeing services being established as part of Supporting Families Changing Futures. These new services will be designed and managed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations, and will enhance the access to support for families when they need it and prevent the escalation of problems before they require a child protection response. The Moreton Bay Family wellbeing service is expected to be operational from 1 January 2017 and Townsville from 1 March 2017.

Regional Child and Family Committees will also play a key role, as the organisations represented by the members of these committees will work together to better understand and meet local needs and priorities under the leadership of the First 1000 Days Australia team.

Who is leading the First 1000 Days movement in Australia and Queensland?

First 1000 Days Australia is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Queensland Family Matters Forum held in August 2016 agreed that if we are to strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations should participate in, and have control over, decisions that affect their children. It is about working with, rather than doing to, families, community organisations and cultural leaders.

This is why First 1000 Days Australia in Queensland, under the leadership of Professor Kerry Arabena, Chair of Indigenous Health and Director of the Indigenous Health Equity Unit at the University of Melbourne, will engage directly with local organisations and cultural leaders to improve early life outcomes for local children.

Read the media statement

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