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NSW initiative supporting Aboriginal children to offer a path forward in early-childhood learning

Dechlan Brennan -

Improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's developmental and learning outcomes was on the agenda on Wednesday, as new Aboriginal-led early childhood education and care program was launched in Nowra on the NSW south coast.

Boori Milumba - meaning "child shine" in the local Aboriginal language - is a program designed to meet the specific individual and cultural needs of Indigenous children facing family stress and hardship.

The program will see 34 children from 0-3 years of age enrolled at Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre in Nowra participating for three years. They will receive five hours a day of "high-quality education and care" for five days a week at no charge to the families. This includes support from "highly qualified" ECEC teachers, infant mental health consultants, and family support workers.

SNAICC chief executive Catherine Liddle said Boori Milumba was an exciting project aimed at delivering positive outcomes to both Indigenous children and early childhood workers.

"It's initiatives like this that show our Aboriginal community-controlled organisation's ability to close the gap in early education and early years targets and strengthen school readiness for our children," Ms Liddle said.

SNIACC have consistently advocated for Indigenous-led organisations to take the lead on closing the gap, and this has only exacerbated since the scathing Productivity Commission report earlier this month.

"To have supports that are specifically tailored to the child's needs that embed culture into practices and offer wraparound support to families is fundamental in delivering positive outcomes for our children and giving them the opportunity to thrive," Ms Liddle said.

The program, aimed at improving Indigenous children's outcomes - in learning, wellbeing and development - will focus on addressing the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who face significant social and financial disadvantage, as well as family stress.

Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Service chief executive Tara Leslie said the project aims to improve a multitude of metrics for Indigenous children.

"This approach will strengthen our nurturing environment that celebrates cultural identity," she said.

The hope is that by combining culturally grounded practices with evidence-based interventions, the Boori Milumba will make a significant impact on children with significantly disadvantaged lives, as well as contributing to broader improvements in early childhood services.

"It also aims to develop a model and evidence base for effective early childhood interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children" Ms Leslie said, "developing a model of early childhood education and care that can be used as in other communities."

Parkville Institute Executive Director, Associate Professor Brigid Jordan, reiterated these comments, and argued a successful program could be held up as evidence on what is needed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander children to thrive.

"This evidence can inform Federal and State governments on culturally responsive and appropriate policy and funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood education and care services," she said.

Boori Milumba is funded by the Federal Government and philanthropy and is being undertaken as a collaborative partnership between SNAICC, Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre, Parkville Institute, and Social Ventures Australia.

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