Aboriginal Families as Teachers

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.

Program overview

Aboriginal Families as Teachers (AFaT) program providers work side by side with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to empower them with skills and resources to support their children’s learning and development.

The AFaT program focuses on families with children aged 0-5 and uses strengths-based approaches, centring on Aboriginal culture and ways of being to ensure it is culturally appropriate.

Through home visits, playgroups and collaborating with early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, AFaT promotes the importance of ECEC and supporting the developmental outcomes of Aboriginal children.

The AFaT program was first funded in 2018, with ongoing evaluation and reapplication for providers occurring annually. A review of the program conducted by the Cultural & Indigenous Research Centre in 2020 demonstrated that AFaT produced positive resultsfor children and parents, and has the potential for longer-term positive outcomes into the future. The AFaT program was expanded in 2021 as an initiative of the First Steps Aboriginal Children’s Education Strategy. The expansion led to a 4 year funding cycle, which allows providers to implement a sustainable program with the aim of long-term positive trajectories.

  • Ballina

  • Berkeley

  • Bourke

  • Brewarrina

  • Broken Hill

  • Byron Bay

  • Cardiff

  • Casino

  • Cobar

  • Collarenbri

  • Coomealla

  • Culburra

  • Forbes

  • Karuah

  • Kyogle

  • Lightning Ridge

  • Lismore

  • Menindee

  • Mogo

  • Narromine

  • Nowra

  • Nyngan

  • Raymond Terrace

  • Toronto

  • Wallsend

  • Weilmoringle

  • Wickham

  • Wilcannia

Program objectives

The 6 core objectives of the program are to:

  • support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to provide developmentally rich home learning environments for young children from birth to 5 years

  • promote literacy and numeracy rich home learning environments

  • build families’ confidence in their ability to support the healthy development and learning of their children

  • support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families for successful transitions to school

  • promote the importance of eECEC within families and communities, including participation in a quality ECEC program for 600 hours in the year before school (at a minimum)

  • support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s developmental outcomes across all 5 domains (physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language).

Eligibility criteria for funded services currently delivering AFaT

Applications are currently closed and funded providers are delivering programs across 29 communities within NSW. They have been funded until 2025.

The department assessed applications against eligibility criteria, program objectives, application requirements and spending rules.

The department prioritised applicants who demonstrate alignment with the core objectives of the program, including:

  • being an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation (ACCO)

  • being a substantial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander component to the organisation

  • demonstrating a strong focus on participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families in ECEC

  • lacking of alternative funding sources

  • ensuring value for money

  • evidence of community demand for the program, including evidence of participation of children aged birth to 5 years

  • having capacity to employ appropriate Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander staff to support the program

  • ensuring that the provider will deliver on the objectives of the program but are also responsive to local need

  • ensuring that the provider have and will engage and consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, communities and organisations in the way that they deliver the program

  • other prioritisation categories that reflect emerging needs and are considered to support the purpose and intended outcome of the program.

Priority of funding

Funded organisations are required to demonstrate that their program contains the following features: 

  • structured but flexible to respond to the needs of families, children and the community

  • family-centredness

  • strengths-based and culturally appropriate (recognising and building on the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and ways of teaching young children)

  • activities developed by a Certificate III or Diploma-qualified early childhood educator, ECEC teacher, or other person with a relevant tertiary qualification

  • links with early childhood services in the community, including participation in 600 hours of ECEC in the year before school (at a minimum)

  • partnerships with community stakeholders to support the capacity of families to enhance early development outcomes for children birth to 5 years

  • where appropriate given the geographical context, social service infrastructure and community feedback, AFaT providers should offer home visits in combination with playgroups to maximise outcomes for parents and children

  • where necessary, service providers should offer transportation for parents and children to attend playgroups and access centralised wrap-around support services

  • AFaT providers should co-design and collaborate with local Aboriginal services and communities on the design and implementation of the AFaT program to respond to local community needs

  • monitor and record Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s development domains (physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language).

Spending rules

Successful applicants must only use funding for the development and delivery of the AFaT program, as outlined in their approved application, in line with program guidelines and the Terms and Conditions of the program.

Funding cannot be used to replace an existing funding source.

Activities need to commence during the calendar year the provider has been notified of success in the application for their grant. Any funds that are unspent at the end of the calendar year after the program is notified of success and every calendar year thereafter until 2025 may be required to be returned to the department.

The department must be notified of exceptional circumstances whereby approved funding cannot be expended within 12 months of the award of funding. Notification should include an explanation for why funding has not been expended and a timeline for spending the outstanding funds. Decisions regarding unspent funds will be made by the department with reference to the funding agreement including Terms and Conditions. Decisions will be confirmed by the department in writing.


AFaT program grants will be paid to successful applicants as notified by the department.

Grants payments will only be progressed for applicants that are registered in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS) and have accepted the Terms and Conditions of the AFaT program annually.

Along with the Terms and Conditions, these program guidelines will form part of the funding agreement for services receiving grant payments through this program.

The amount of funding provided will be based on the department's assessment of amount requested and the information provided in the application.

Grant funding will be released for successful applicants to deliver the program every 6 months until 2025.

Funding for any future round of applications will be announced to sector at a later date, this will subject to budget availability.

Reporting requirements

A formal acquittal process is required to be undertaken throughout the program.

This consists of:

  • financial accountability completed 6 months after the initial payment

  • financial accountability completed every calendar year after the initial payment

  • performance accountabilities completed every quarter.

These accountability reports will be used to ensure services are receiving the appropriate level of funding and are compliant with program requirements. Services may be audited to confirm the accuracy of data provided in Performance and Financial accountability statements.

Any services identified as not meeting the terms under the funding agreement may be referred to Early Childhood Sector Support program for additional support.

Program monitoring and evaluation

The department will monitor and evaluate the implementation of programs through the acquittals, in order to assess the impact of the program. Program evaluation will involve qualitative and quantitative measures including feedback from funded organisations on the value of the educational opportunity to the organisation.

A culturally appropriate tool will be implemented by services to record the developmental stages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. This information will be collated through the quarterly performance accountabilities reports. The tool will enable the monitoring of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across 5 developmental domains to inform future program development.

Additional information

SmartyGrants Help Guide for Applicants and Applicant Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's).

Contact details

For more information about the AFaT program, please contact the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Education and Care unit at aboriginalprogramsECED@det.nsw.edu.au


  • School operations

Business Unit:

  • Early Childhood Outcomes
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