Early Development Data a Wake‐up Call to Australia

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Data released today shows too many children are still starting school without fundamental health, general knowledge, communication, language and cognitive skills, and more investment is needed earlier in life, according to welfare charity The Benevolent Society.

CEO of The Benevolent Society Anne Hollonds said the latest round of data from the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) should be a wake‐up call for the community.

“A staggering 22 per cent of all children and 43 per cent of Indigenous children are classed as developmentally vulnerable when they start school. This is just unacceptable in a country like Australia,” Hollonds said.

 “While it's encouraging to see these figures have improved marginally since the first round of AEDI data was collected three years ago, there are still far too many children starting school behind the eight ball.

“National and international research consistently shows the first few years of life are when we can have the biggest impact on children’s life chances – in fact, a large number of adult problems including unemployment, mental illness, poor health and homelessness can be linked to poor experiences early in life.

“One US study found disadvantaged children who participated in preschool education and their families received extra parenting support were more likely to complete school, find higher paying jobs and own their own homes, and less likely to be involved in crime than children who did not get the extra support,” Hollands said.

“There are enormous social and economic benefits of investing in early child development – resulting in more individuals contributing to the growth of our economy and fewer people dependent on welfare or involved in crime.

“Whilst Australia leads the world with the AEDI and it is a goldmine of information about children’s development, it’s not enough to just collect data. Now we need action to ensure all children have access to high quality early childhood education and and that parents have the skills, knowledge and support they need to raise thriving kids.

“The Government must set firm targets to dramatically improve these scores, use the data to decide where more services are needed and invest in proven programs that prevent long‐term and life‐long social problems,” she said.

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