Improving access to urban and regional early childhood services

Improving access to urban and regional early childhood services Report

Resource Sheet

  • Author(s): Vicki-Ann Ware
  • Published: 2012
  • Publisher: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Australian Institute of Family Studies
  • Volume: Closing the Gap Clearinghouse

Abstract: There is now a well-established evidence base demonstrating the benefits of early childhood services relating to preventing developmental delays and enhancing school readiness, literacy, numeracy and social skills. This period for a family and for individual children also presents a strategic opportunity to enhance children’s and families’ health and wellbeing outcomes well into adulthood. There are several data sets that provide very different estimates of Indigenous access to and participation in early childhood services. Wave 2 data from the Footprints in Time study suggest that 89% of the study sample had accessed health and other services for their children. Yet other available service usage data consistently suggest that Indigenous Australians have a relatively low uptake of early childhood services, even where such services may be deemed as readily available. An example of this is the relatively lower levels of participation in preschool. While the majority of Indigenous Australians live in urban and regional settlements, there are even more limited data specifically detailing their uptake of services in these areas, with most studies focusing on the challenges of remote communities. However, Flaxman and colleagues’ evaluation of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy 2004–2009 did find that, while Indigenous families are accessing some Indigenous-specific services (which are more limited in number), the research suggests that they rarely access mainstream services. Therefore, ‘improving access to mainstream services in urban locations is particularly challenging’. This resource sheet draws on about 30 studies to explore practical ways to improve access to a range of early childhood services for Indigenous Australians living in urban and regional centres. While most studies are Australian, international evidence has been incorporated where appropriate. There are few evaluations that test whether and how different strategies and mechanisms contribute to improved accessibility. We are therefore reliant upon documented practice experience in drawing out this resource sheet’s findings and principles. This resource sheet focuses on how to improve access to early childhood services located in metropolitan regions and large country towns, because this is where the majority of Indigenous people live. However, many studies do not differentiate urban from remote geographic contexts in reporting on effective strategies. Therefore, strategies that appear to be most appropriate to urban and regional settlements have been reported here, while those pertaining particularly to remote areas are not covered. Many of the strategies that are described here may also apply equally in remote settlements, with consideration of additional access challenges; for example, distance from services and difficulty attracting staff to remote townships.

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Suggested Citation
Vicki-Ann Ware, 2012, Improving access to urban and regional early childhood services, Volume:Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Report, viewed 07 August 2022,

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