First Steps – the NSW Aboriginal Children’s Early Childhood Education Strategy 2021-2025

The NSW Department of Education’s vision is that all Aboriginal children in NSW can access quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) and are supported to embrace their culture and identity for a strong start to lifelong learning.

As Aboriginal people are the Traditional Custodians of NSW, we refer to Aboriginal people. The department’s Aboriginal programs and services are available, without question, to Torres Strait Islander peoples.

First Steps - the NSW Aboriginal Children's ECE Strategy (PDF, 602.18KB) (the Strategy) is a 5-year plan that solidifies the department’s commitment to ensuring the best educational outcomes for Aboriginal children aged 0-5. We want to ensure that every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family in NSW feels welcomed and that their culture is valued at their ECEC service.

Improving access to quality ECEC for Aboriginal Children

The Strategy provides a clear roadmap to achieving the best educational outcomes for Aboriginal children aged 0-5, and supports renewed reform under Closing the Gap and the 10-year partnership between the department and the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG).

The department works in collaboration with the NSW AECG to achieve better educational outcomes for Aboriginal children. This has formalised in our 10-year partnership with the NSW AECG that runs from 2020 – 2030. The Strategy will complement this important partnership.

Evidence shows that Aboriginal children have better educational outcomes when their learning enhances their identity as Aboriginal people. The Strategy demonstrates our commitment to enhancing Aboriginal children’s education from the very beginning of their educational journey and ensuring they are in a safe and nurturing ECEC environment. It is a commitment from the department to provide better education, and to support the early years sector to do the same to ensure that every ECEC service is safe and welcoming to Aboriginal children and families.

Strategy consultation

The Strategy was developed in consultation with members of the NSW Department of Education’s ECE Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group, now renamed the ECEC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee. Their voice and guidance enabled the department to connect the national ambitions of Closing The Gap to the reality of what happens in ECEC services and communities across NSW every day.

First Steps Strategy goals

The Strategy outlines 3 key goals for Aboriginal children and families in NSW:

  • The Child: all Aboriginal children and their families are supported to enrol in quality, culturally inclusive ECEC.

  • Family and Kinship: all Aboriginal families and children feel respected in ECEC services, as their culture is celebrated and nourished.

  • Learning: Aboriginal children have access to ECEC that drives stronger outcomes through strengths-based approaches and all children have a sense of pride in Aboriginal people, cultures and histories in NSW.


The Strategy has 5 performance measures, or targets:

  • 95% of Aboriginal children will be enrolled in the year before school starts by 2025.

  • 55% of Aboriginal children will be assessed as developmentally on track in all 5 domains of the Australian Early Development Census by 2031.

  • 50% of Aboriginal children in ECEC will have access to an Aboriginal language program by 2025.

  • 3% of staff working in the department’s ECEC directorates will be Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

  • 100% of staff working in the department’s ECEC directorates will have completed or commenced cultural awareness/safety training by 2025.

Additionally, the department is committed to increasing the capacity and number of Aboriginal community-controlled ECEC services in NSW.

Funding priorities

The Strategy will focus on a number of priorities aimed at achieving its goals and targets.

With a continued emphasis on co-designed local solutions, we look to ensure that our sector has culturally safe services and a culturally competent workforce.

Funding has been committed over 5 years to support the department’s commitment to the Strategy. These start-up initiatives include:

  • expanding the Ninganah No More languages program

  • expanding the Aboriginal Families as Teachers program

  • supporting the sustainability and expansion of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) delivering ECEC services with SNAICC, our newly appointed Sector Strengthening Partner, announced in June 2023

  • covering operational and staffing expenses.

The department will continue to work with the ECEC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee, ACCOs and other Aboriginal organisations and community groups to develop initiatives under the Strategy. This collaborative structure is a cornerstone of the Strategy and will be key to its success.


  • Early childhood education

Business Unit:

  • Early Childhood Outcomes
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