Service integration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood development
To resolve the gap in existing evidence around best practice service delivery approaches for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families experiencing vulnerability, with a specific focus on integrated models of early childhood service delivery that are led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations.
The project builds on an existing body of knowledge surrounding best practice approaches to early childhood service delivery that position Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led integrated service delivery approaches as best placed to improve child and family outcomes through:
- Increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families access to a broad range of child and family support services through reducing the access barriers present in mainstream service systems, which commonly present as culturally unsafe, complex, fragmented and difficult to navigate.
- Responding to family needs early in the life cycle by integrating a range of supports within, or on referral, from universally available early childhood service contexts.
Project Leader: Professor Kerry Arabena, Director, Indigenous Health Equity Unit, University of Melbourne.
Project partners: SNAICC – National Voice for our Children
Administering organisation: University of Melbourne
Start date: 1 February 2018—31 May 2019
This in-depth exploration study employed Aboriginal research methods (qualitative semi-structured interviews, participatory workshops and informal ‘yarning’) as data collection tools to answer the research questions, resulting in a narrative description and analysis of behaviour, experience and perspectives.
Engaging an action research methodology, the project partnered with two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) organisations to develop a change process that was recorded for analysis, observations, reflections, strategies and outcomes.
The data collected during the in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were transcribed and analysed and coded using NVivo.
Reviews from the two partner Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander ECEC organisations showed that service integration enables organisations to meet the broader needs of Aboriginal children and families and provide holistic and coordinated care.
The broader range of inter-related domains included in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child wellbeing highlighted from the study are:
- Culture and connections
- Mental health and emotional wellbeing
- Home and environment
- Learning and skills
- Empowerment and economic wellbeing.
The data collected during the research also showed that the process of moving towards an integrated service system are highly relational. Community inclusion, participation and empowerment were the most fundamental to a successful integrated service system.
Results from the two partners used as case studies suggests that reorienting service systems to respond to the needs of children and families can support community empowerment, leadership, and self-determination (control) provided:
- the programs are well resourced (with resources going to the right places; that longer-term funding is aligned to an organisational strategy and where Aboriginal staff are engaged for longer-term contracts and are supported to transition into leadership), and where
- leadership and governance structures allow/prioritise community accountabilities.