This project will develop a collaborative research partnership and proposal to investigate service integration initiatives targeted to respond to the early childhood development needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The Secretariat National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) will lead the project development under the auspice and support of the University of Melbourne. They will widen the collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations who lead relevant integration initiatives, and with the capacity development agencies that support them.
Integrating service delivery requires shifting practice from traditional modes of 'siloed', specialist child and family services, towards models of collaboration between services, and between services and communities. This is particularly important for families experiencing high levels of vulnerability and the impacts of intergenerational trauma as they often require a broad range of service responses, which are often fragmented and difficult to navigate.
This project aims to build evidence around integrated service delivery processes to provide learning for communities and governments on the development of integration initiatives that respond effectively to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. Critical to the success of integration models in the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is the delivery of services by community controlled organisations, and the ability of communities to drive service design based on local and cultural knowledge of family needs and effective responses.
This project aims to interrogate two central questions:
- How can processes of early childhood service integration concurrently support community empowerment and control in service delivery? What does Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community control look like in the context of developing an integrated service model? How can integration initiatives build on existing community leadership structures? (The community enablers)
- How can government program design and resourcing better create an enabling environment for communities to flexibly develop or coordinate the range of services needed to meet early childhood development needs? (The system enablers).
This research activity is a collaborative project and, with this initial funding, will develop a larger research project design, including detailed methodology, and collaborative partnerships with a view to gaining further funding. Research sites will be selected to target promising and developing early childhood service integration initiatives with significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in their design and delivery.
The project will build understanding of factors for success and inhibitors to effective service integration in different contexts in order to inform future policy and implementation initiative development. It will also review model and implementation adaptation in order to improve live integration efforts in specific communities, and to promote broader uptake of effective integration models by government.