Fund amount:

Program area:
Educational Equity




Building a better early start for First Nations children

26 Jul 2023

The Ross Trust is proud to be supporting a ground-breaking initiative that has the goal of transforming the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria.

The trust has committed $300,000 over three years to the THYRVE pilot project, which aims to increase early learning participation and create a strong network of culturally safe and accessible early years services.

The project is an initiative of SNAICC - National Voice for Our Children (SNAICC), the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The Ross Trust is jointly funding the pilot with the William Buckland Foundation.

SNAICC says that research shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 2.5 times more likely to have developmental vulnerabilities by the age of five, due to ongoing impacts of intergenerational disadvantage, trauma, and discrimination.

The Victorian Director of the THRYVE project, Simon Fewings, says that Aboriginal community-controlled early learning services have huge potential to improve the outcomes for First Nations children and families across Victoria, from East Gippsland in the south to Mildura in the north-west.

The project will deliver professional support and advocacy services to 12 existing Aboriginal Community Controlled Early Childhood Development and Care Services across Victoria. It will centre on

  • strengthening the quality of early years services through coaching and mentoring service and facilitation of leadership development opportunities for managers and their assistants
  • supporting the development of resources to promote the inclusion of Aboriginal languages and cultural knowledge in educational programs
  • strengthening the early years workforce capability and sustainability through a suite of professional learning and growth opportunities
  • growing the early years community-controlled sector in Victoria.

“This is a unique opportunity to tailor our evidenced-based approach to quality improvement to the context of the individual service and the requirement of the individual practitioner,” Simon says. “We aspire to raise quality in alignment with our communities’ aspirations and needs.”

Planning estimated that more than 2000 people could benefit from the project, from 300 staff and 24 leaders to about 600 young children and hundreds of their family members. 

“This project is not just about the value for the pre-schoolers,” Simon says. “A lot of childcare centres are also hubs that link into health and other support services. I’ve realised over the years that feeling connected to a place can make a huge difference to people.

“It may be that a parent or a sibling who is feeling isolated can say hello to a teacher and then that can start a conversation, which makes them feel like they belong. That sense of belonging and connection is a protective factor. Evidence tells us that protective factors make a significant difference in the physical, social, and emotional wellbeing of individuals.

“We’re very pleased to have The Ross Trust as a new partner to walk this journey with us.”

An independent evaluation of the pilot will assess the project's implementation and outcomes, and measure short, medium, and long-term impact. Findings will be shared with funding bodies, sector experts, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. 

The Ross Trust Senior Program Manger Meghan Weekes says she hopes the project’s impact will resonate far beyond its scope, fostering lasting change for generations to come.

“We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled early learning services play a pivotal role in enhancing strengths and outcomes for First Nations children and families, and we are pleased fund this program to address the many challenges that hinder their success,” she says.

The Ross Trust CEO Sarah Hardy says the grant reflects the trust’s commitment to a reconciled Australia and one that is respectful of the spirit of self-determination.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to have a say in their future to make a positive and enduring difference,” Sarah says. “The Ross Trust is dedicated to listening to the voices of those most impacted by the decisions our country makes.

”Find out more about the work of SNAICC