Release type: Speech


Ballarat Connected Beginnings site announcement


The Hon Dr Anne Aly MP
Minister for Early Childhood Education
Minister for Youth


It's wonderful to be here, and thank you, everyone, for having me here this morning in wonderful Ballarat. Not my first time to be in Ballarat. As a matter of fact, my husband landed here from Canada about 35 years ago and last year we came here for a reunion of all his mates in Ballarat. You remember the ice rink that was here? My husband built that ice rink back in the day. So, what a bit of a connection to Ballarat right here. Can I start also by thanking Uncle Peter for that wonderful acknowledgement of country and to also acknowledge the Wadawurrung people, the traditional owners of land on which we meet. I want to pay my respect to their elders, past and present, and acknowledge their ongoing cultural and educational practises. I extend that respect to all our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here with us today. 

I want to take a moment also to acknowledge the amazing and wonderful member for Ballarat, my colleague, Minister Catherine King, who is here with us here today. Thank you so much for welcoming me here as well, Catherine, and for being such a great colleague. I also want to acknowledge our colleague, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. Who is unfortunately unable to join us here today, but who I know is a huge supporter of the Connected Beginnings program. 

Two more acknowledgements; I would like to acknowledge Gretchen Young and my dear friend Miranda Edwards from SNAICC. I'd also like to thank BADAC for having us here today at Yirram Burron Early Learning Centre. What a beautiful early learning centre you have. We've already had an opportunity to meet some of the wonderful young children who attend here. 

Now, I don't have to tell any of you just how important those first five years of a child's life are. It’s something that drives me and drives our government to do what we do every day. By the time children reach school at the age of five, or six, 90 percent of their brain development has already happened. And you can see that today, just sitting down talking to Ned as he made us breakfast, that new brain ticking over as he was preparing breakfast for us. It's really quite a marvel to watch and something that I'm always in awe of when I interact with children, as I'm sure you all are, about just how much you can observe about how much they're learning through their play. This includes setting the foundations for their future learning, for their health, their wellbeing, and including how they relate to others and their resilience in the face of stress and challenges. 

So, we know that if we get those vital early years right, we actually have the ability to change the trajectory of a child's life. That's pretty huge when you think about it. You may have heard me say this before because it's what drives me to do what I do as a Minister for Early Childhood Education and Care. And that's why access to quality early childhood, early childhood education and care is so important, and why this Connected Beginnings program is so vital. Children who access early childhood education do better on key measures right throughout life, including improved literacy and numeracy skills, better health outcomes, and they go on to get higher paying jobs. Connected Beginnings is a key contributor to closing the gap in early childhood education, partnering with First Nations communities in ensuring activities are delivered to First Nations people in their own places and own country. 

When I visited the Connected Beginnings sites in Geraldton, I had someone comment about how this is a new approach to raising children, with everyone coming together to provide connected supports. And I remember saying to that person, it's not new. In my culture, as I know also in your cultures, we believe that it takes a village to raise a child. It's a traditional way where a child is wrapped around in support from their community. 

The Connected Beginnings program is an excellent example of what can be achieved when you listen and involve community. The program connects First Nations children aged zero to five with a range of early childhood education, health and family support services to help them meet the learning and development milestones that are necessary to achieve a positive transition into school. It’s delivered in partnership with SNAICC, our National Voice for our Children, and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. 

The Connected Beginnings program is a community led project that is delivering results. At existing sites of Connected Beginnings, the average attendance of First Nations children in centre-based care has increased by more than 10 per cent. Existing sites have also seen an increase in the number of children on track in all five Australian early development census domains. 

So, I'm absolutely thrilled today to be announcing a new Connected Beginnings site right here in Ballarat. The new site here in Ballarat is being delivered in partnership with the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative and will support around 350 First Nations children in this local area. That's pretty amazing.

This new site joins 40 locations already operating across Australia, helping around 16,500 First Nations children, including other Victorian sites in Mildura, in Shepparton and in Whittlesea. We're on track to deliver our 50 Connected Beginning sites right across the country by the end of this year. And once all of those 50 sites are established, the program has the potential to support up to 20 per cent of all First Nations children aged zero to five. 

We're making this investment because we know that when children go to early childhood education and care, they have better outcomes. They have better outcomes at school, they have better outcomes as adolescents, they have better outcomes right into adulthood. Now, I look forward to this being a reality for First Nations children in Ballarat. So, thank you to all our partners here today for making this a reality. It is, as I said, it is wonderful to be here in Ballarat, and it is the cherry on top to be able to introduce a new site here in Ballarat for the beautiful children right here in Ballarat. And I look forward to seeing the outcomes of Connected Beginnings in Ballarat. 

Thank you.