The children of Alice Springs are our future. Strong Kids, Strong Centre is a whole of community initiative to work together to make sure all Alice Springs kids have access to the best opportunities in life.
Strong Kids, Strong Centre is committed to working together differently across suburbs, cultures, organisations and sectors so that all Alice Springs kids receive the best start in order to grow into thriving adults.
Our focus is children in the 0 – 4 age group, a critical stage where the foundations for life are laid. Research tells us that investment into early childhood development provides a huge return both socially and economically. Applying our energy at this point makes sense.
Strong Kids, Strong Centre has a long history (it began as the Pre-Birth to Four project in 2013) and a strong foundation of research and baseline data, including significant community engagement. Right now we are working on making sure our foundational work is up to date and relevant before seeking further community input.
01. BASELINE DATA REPORT
Compiling all the facts, data and research to show us where our energy is most urgently required, to inform the action we take in future and the ways in which we can engage authentically and with purpose in the community.
02. program and services audit
Understanding the landscape that we are currently operating in – what great work is happening already - and how we might all connect and work together differently to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children.
03. community engagement
One of the most important, and ongoing, factors of our work is making sure the community is right here alongside us and working with us, every step of the way. An extensive community research project was undertaken in 2014 which directly informed our strategic planning.
Following a community workshop held in May 2016 which strongly informed our directions and priorities, we are working to consider targeted engagement across the community to further understand what the people of Alice Springs need to work alongside us in making sure our kids thrive.
Our Challenge is everyone's challenge.
Did you know that by the age of three, a child’s brain has reached 90% of its adult size? And that research has indicated that the brain's sensitivity to language, numeracy, social skills and emotional control peaks before the age of four?
In some areas of Alice Springs, up to 45% of children are developmentally vulnerable according to the Australian Early Development Census. This means that in some places, almost half of our kids are starting school without having received all of the early nurturing, learning and health care that is so important for the brain development they need to grow into thriving adults.
Research tells us that appropriate support applied at this very early stage of a child’s life can have transformative effects, impacting on lifelong learning, health and behaviour.
A longitudinal study of at-risk children in the US found that those who did not receive a high-quality early childhood education are significantly more likely to drop out of school, become a teenage parent, not attain higher education levels, and are more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
Everything we know indicates that children who are developmentally vulnerable from an early age are statistically more likely to be disadvantaged throughout their life, facing challenges such as unemployment, poor health, and incarceration.
Thriving kids grow into thriving adults and that means a thriving community. It makes sense to invest in our children. Gradually, an investment in early childhood should mean savings at the other end – health, justice, unemployment and welfare. Research has shown that every dollar spent on early childhood development realises a return to society of up to $15.
How do we address this challenge?
There is no simple solution to this challenge. Simply applying more programs and more funding won’t work. There are many factors that impact upon a child’s wellbeing – health, environment, the effects of poverty, to name a few. What is needed is a whole of community, wrap around approach that builds on all the strengths and great work that already exist. We need agencies working closely together to integrate their services to best suit the needs of the children and their families. We need families to work with and support other families and to inform our work. We need State and Federal Governments to support the work through policy and systems changes. We need corporate and business owners to play a role as well – by helping to inform, and directly supporting the initiatives that we put in place. And most of all, we need the people of Alice Springs to demonstrate the strengths of our community by getting involved.
Collective Impact is the framework that we will use to organise our work. It is rigorous, encourages evidence and strengths based practice, and embeds accountability. Internationally, and here in Australia, Collective Impact is helping communities to come together to address complex challenges.