Programs for Indigenous families

The importance of the early years for Indigenous children

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children attending mainstream early learning and child care services. This trend is positive and will help to continually develop and deliver culturally appropriate programs within mainstream services, and contribute to a positive start for these children. While not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families are vulnerable, high numbers of Indigenous people are represented in vulnerable groups. Historically, vulnerabilities of Indigenous children have been compounded by difficulty in accessing necessary services. In recognising the importance of early childhood development for all children, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the Australian Government provides funding for the operation of early learning and child care services in locations where the market would not normally be viable, particularly in Indigenous, regional and remote communities.

The Government's investment in early learning and child care will give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children the chance to start learning early and be ready for school. Doing well at school gives a child many more opportunities in life. Government funding also focuses on improving health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies as well as providing support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and families to help their children grow and develop. As part of the Community Child Care Fund within the Jobs for Families Child Care Package, early childhood, maternal and child health and family support services will be integrated with schools in a number of disadvantaged Indigenous communities. The aim of integrated service delivery is to ensure that Indigenous children in identified areas of high need achieve the learning and developmental outcomes necessary for a positive transition to school.

Early learning and child care for Indigenous children

The Budget Based Funded (BBF) Program is an element of the Community Support Program, under the broader Child Care Services Support Program. The BBF Program provides a contribution to the operational costs of approximately 300 early education, child care and school age care services in approved locations across Australia. These services are predominantly located in rural, remote and Indigenous communities where the market would otherwise be unviable. Many are the sole providers of child care in their communities.

BBF delivery models include centre-based Crèches, Long Day Care, Outside School Hours Care, Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Services,  Mobile service, Playgroups and flexible services (toy libraries, nutrition programmes).

The BBF Programme was reviewed in 2014. A copy of the BBF Programme Review final report can be found at the Budget Based Funded Program page on the Department of Education and Training website. The annual allocation for the BBF Program is capped and the program is closed to applications for the establishment of additional services in new locations.

The BBF Improved Standards Measure (BBF Quality Measure) provides funding to improve the quality of centre-based long day care through three elements:

  • Infrastructure element - to upgrade or replace buildings to assist these services to meet the National Quality Standard for physical environment

  • Workforce element – to increase numbers of qualified staff

  • Governance element –to strengthen governance and administrative capacity of services.

Services funded through the BBF Program are generally not approved for the purposes of administering Child Care Benefit (CCB). Families using these services are not eligible to claim CCB or the Child Care Rebate (CCR). The cost to families in using these services, however, is usually minimal as the Australian Government meets the majority of the costs involved in providing these services through operational funding grants. BBF services are excluded from the National Quality Framework (NQF)

Who is eligible to use services funded through the BBF Program?

Services are open to all children in the relevant community and are required to be tailored to the needs of the whole community.

What services are available?

The Government supports the following child care services in regional and remote areas:

Crèches provide child care and early learning sessions for less than full-time type hours. This may include occasional care and other services provided for less than full-time hours.

Flexible /Innovative services provide child care and early learning sessions for full-time type hours (a minimum of five hours per day for four days per week). This may include long day care, overnight care and other services provided for full-time hours or longer.

Outside School Hours Care services provide After School Care, Before School Care and/or Vacation Care services for primary school-aged children. In addition to providing the Outside School Hours Care service, enrichment program such as cultural activities, homework centres, nutrition services or sporting activities may be provided.

Multifunctional Aboriginal Children's Services (MACS) deliver long day care for children not yet attending formal schooling and at least one other form of child care and early learning session or activity. This activity may include outside school hours care, playgroups, nutrition programs or parenting programs.

Mobile services are where child care and early learning staff travel to visit areas to provide child care and early learning sessions and support. This may include vacation care, playgroups, on-farm care, parenting support, toy libraries and parent resource libraries.

Mobile services may also provide occasional or regular long day care sessions in community venues where state or territory laws permit.

Helping child care services include Indigenous children

The Government is committed to providing an affordable, accessible and high-quality, early learning and child care system to all Australian children. Many studies show that high-quality education and care can stimulate a child's development and help overcome disadvantage.

Children from Indigenous families are encouraged to be part of the early childhood learning and care experience in Australia. Support is available to child care services to ensure they provide an inclusive environment for children from Indigenous families.

The Australian Government invests in the Inclusion Support Programme (ISP) which commenced on 1 July 2016, following the closure of the Inclusion and Professional Support Program (IPSP) on 30 June 2016. The ISP provides support to eligible early childhood and child care (ECCC) services to build their capacity and capability to include children with additional needs, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with disability, the opportunity to learn and develop in a ECCC service alongside typically developing peers.

The ISP also introduces a new funding stream – the Inclusion Development Fund (IDF) Innovative Solutions Support – which assists eligible ECCC services to fund innovative and flexible solutions to inclusion where a barrier has been identified but cannot be addressed through support provided by its Inclusion Agency. ECCC services may, for example,  access bicultural support through this stream which may include access to an Indigenous interpreter or translating services to support a ECCC service enrol and settle a child/children from an Indigenous background. 

Further information about the ISP is available on the Department of Education and Training’s website

Preschools

Through the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education (UA NP), the Government, in collaboration with states and territories, is focused on ensuring all children have access to a quality, early childhood education programs for 600 hours in the year before full-time schooling. This program will be delivered by qualified early childhood teachers in a range of settings, including preschools, schools and child care. There is also a specific Council of Australian Governments (COAG) target for 95 per cent of all Indigenous four year olds to be enrolled in early childhood education by 2025. This aligns with the objectives and outcomes of the UA NP.

Preschool Profile

Preschool Profile is a tool to help preschool staff assess the literacy and numeracy skills of children before they start formal school. The profile is also used to measure children's progress through their preschool years. Preschool Profile identifies the knowledge a child brings to school and it can be used with other measures of social development, health and wellbeing to improve their educational outcomes.

You can ask your child's preschool for more information.

Supported Playgroups

Supported Playgroups are initiated and facilitated by a paid coordinator and are available to Indigenous families.

Playgroups give children under school age the chance to socialise and interact with other children and adults. Parents are usually involved in the children's activities.

Playgroups are different from child care because you stay with your child rather than leave them in someone else's care.

They also provide a good opportunity for parents to talk and share common experiences and can be held at family homes, community centres or community halls.

Visit Playgroup Australia's (link is external) website or call 1800 171 882 for more information.

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