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Remote WA communities receive $34.6m for early childhood development

David Prestipino -

Disadvantaged young children living in some of WA's most disadvantaged and remote communities will benefit from $34.6 million of funding in the upcoming State Budget.

Two dozen new projects through a joint venture partnership between the Western Australian Government and Minderoo Foundation are set to boost the life outcomes and quality of young children before they start school.

Now its fourth year, the Early Years Partnership (EYP) is a unique, 10-year commitment between the WA government, which has set aside $15.6 million in the upcoming State Budget, and Andrew and Nicola Forrest's Minderoo Foundation, which has contributed $19 million.

Minderoo Foundation communities executive director Penny Dakin said approximately 2700 children would likely benefit from the projects, developed in collaboration with the four communities they will be located: Armadale, Katanningand other areas of Central Great Southern, Derby and Bidyadanga.

"Improving the early years can positively influence the trajectory of a person’s life, and it’s also a crucial part of strengthening families and cohesive communities," Ms Dakin said about the foundation's strategy to empower communities through place-based programs.

An expansion of child dental services, early screening for developmental issues, accommodation for daycare workers and a new Early Learning and Family Centre in Derby are some of the initiatives the EYP would now deliver via the new funding.

"The EYP encourages using innovative new methods of solving long-standing problems and is underpinned by world-leading research led by the Telethon Kids Institute, in order to find out what works," Ms Dakin said.

"Children who miss out on positive learning experiences within their families and communities can fall behind in education ... and those who experience adversity can suffer lifelong health impacts."

Ms Dakin said collaboration was at the heart of the EYP, and its continued investment in the critical stages of child development, from ages zero to five.

"The communities themselves are empowered to create community plans for projects that will help benefit their children, their families and their entire community," she said.

EYP communities identified 24 projects that will now be tackled as a priority, including:

- construction of an Early Learning and Family Centre (Derby)
- additional support for child dental health services (Central Great Southern)
- increased Child and Maternal Health Checks (Armadale West and Derby)
- improved maternal Child and Child Health data access (Armadale)

Minderoo Foundation co-founder Nicola Forrest AO said the State Budget funding boost would also help deliver improved access to early learning, early identification and intervention of developmental delay, while also providing critical family support systems to leverage young children's development and readiness for school.

"We congratulate the state government on having the conviction to co-fund, and the courage to trial innovative solutions that can circuit-break cycles of intergenerational disadvantage," Ms Forrest said. 

WA Premier Roger Cook said investment in the early years of a child's life provided foundations for them to grow and learn, and develop pathways for future succcess in their communities.

"I'm proud we are continuing to invest in this important partnership to deliver projects across the state," he said.

WA early childhood education minister Sabine Winton said the first five years of a child's life was critical to their development and life outcomes.

"This investment will ensure the Early Years Partnership continues to promote new ways of working to achieve great results for children, families and the wider community," she said.

"The EYP prioritises community-led, decision-making and partnerships to implement solutions that build upon the strengths of each community, and addresses their unique challenges.

"We acknowledge the generous support of Minderoo Foundation, as well as the local leadership and advocacy of partner communities of Armadale West, Central Great Southern, Derby and Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community."

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