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 (ECE) and are supported to embrace their culture and identity for a strong start to lifelong learning.

First Steps - the NSW Aboriginal Children's ECE Strategy (PDF, 612KB) is a five-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 child and family feels welcomed and that their culture is valued at their ECE service.

A commitment to improved access to quality early childhood education for Aboriginal Children

This 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 has been working in collaboration with the NSW AECG towards better educational outcomes for Aboriginal children. This is now formalised in our ten year partnership with the NSW AECG that runs from 2020-2030. The Aboriginal Children’s ECE strategy in 2021 as a complement to that important partnership.

The evidence shows us that Aboriginal children have better educational outcomes when their education enhances their identity as Aboriginal people. This strategy shows our commitment to enhance Aboriginal children’s education from the very beginning of their educational journey and ensure they are in a safe and nurturing environment. It is a commitment from the department to provide better education and support to the early years sector to do the same, to ensure that every ECE is safe and welcoming to Aboriginal children and families.

Strategy consultation

The First Steps Strategy has been developed in consultation with members of the NSW Department of Education’s Early Childhood Education Aboriginal Advisory Group. Their voice and guidance have enabled the department to connect the national ambitions of Closing The Gap to the reality of what happens in early childhood services and communities across NSW every day.

First Steps Strategy goals

The strategy outlines three key goals for Aboriginal Children and families in NSW - for children, family and kinship groups and learning.

Child: All Aboriginal children and their families are supported to enrol in quality culturally inclusive ECE.

Family and kinship: All Aboriginal families and children feel respected in ECE services as their culture is celebrated and nourished.

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

Targets

The First Steps strategy has 5 initial targets:

  1. 95% of Aboriginal children will be enrolled in the year before school starts by 2025.
  2. 55% of Aboriginal Children will be assessed as developmentally on track in all five domains of the Australian Early Development Census by 2031.
  3. 50% of Aboriginal children in ECE will have access to an Aboriginal language program by 2025.
  4. 3% of staff working in the department’s ECE directorates will be Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  5. 100% of staff working in the department’s ECE 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 ECE services in NSW.

Funding priorities

The strategy will focus on a number of priorities aimed at achieving our goals and targets. With a continued emphasis on co-designed local solutions, we will progress a body of work to ensure that our sector is one with culturally safe services and a culturally competent workforce.

Universal Access National Partnership Funds have been committed over five years to support initial start-up initiatives to support the department’s commitment to the First Steps strategy. These start-up initiatives include:

  • Expanding and redesigning the Aboriginal language program Ninganah No More
  • Expanding and redesigning Aboriginal Families as Teachers program
  • Supporting the sustainability and expansion of the Aboriginal ECE sector
  • Coverage of operational and staffing expenses factored into the initial investment

The department will continue to work with the Aboriginal ECE advisory group, Aboriginal communities, organisations, and families to develop initiatives under this strategy. This collaborative structure is a cornerstone of the strategy, and will be key to its success.

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