Closing the gap in early childhood development: Community driven evidence, translation, policy, and practice - grow children up strong

October 2016

Dr Michael Wright (Chief Investigator)

Other investigators: 

Principal Investigator:
Dr Brad Farrant, Telethon Kids Institute

Chief Investigators: 
Professor Stephen Zubrick, University of Western Australia
Associate Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker, Australian Catholic University
Dr Carrington Shepherd, Telethon Kids Institute
Mr Glenn Pearson, Telethon Kids Institute

Associate Investigator: 
Professor Fiona Stanley, Telethon Kids Institute

Project description: 

Health, mental health and wellbeing outcomes for Indigenous people remain well below those of other Australians. This disadvantage begins early in life with Aboriginal children twice as likely to be classified as developmentally vulnerable when they start school. Research into the importance of early childhood development indicates that this gap has significant implications for subsequent life outcomes. Thus, research aimed at closing the gap in early childhood is one of the most promising ways to help close the gaps between outcomes across the lifespan.

The impact of much previous quantitative Aboriginal child development research and the resultant policy and practice has been limited by a failure to adequately recognise, understand and address differences in culture and values. This is despite the explicit desire of Aboriginal people to be more actively involved in processes designed to improve outcomes for their children.

This project will adopt a novel approach to quantitative research by using a participatory action research method incorporating an Aboriginal worldview and knowledge framework to consult and collaborate with Aboriginal parents, families and elders. The outcomes of this community engagement will be used to inform and direct quantitative research (using three large existing datasets) into the factors that prompt, facilitate and constrain the early development of Aboriginal children. This new approach allows two very different methodologies with different strengths to complement each other. The participatory action research method will also be used to refine, develop and translate the quantitative research findings into a suite of culturally appropriate and empowering policies and practices. This process and the ongoing involvement of policy makers and service providers across the life of the project will ensure the relevance, dissemination and promotion of research outcomes and maximise the uptake of the resultant policies and practices.