08:18pm Thursday 09 July 2020

New insights into early childhood diversity

The study, being conducted by Monash University’s School of Rural Health and Sunraysia Community Health Services, will provide a snapshot of how a child has developed before they start school.

Dr Bernadette Ward from the School of Rural Health said early childhood was a critical time in development where experiences prepare children for transition to full-time school, and establish lifelong learning pathways.

“We are interested in hearing from parents about what they feel is important for their family and child’s journey before they start primary school,” Dr Ward said.

“This research will assist us to better understand the factors that influence people from rural Pacific Island migrant communities’ decisions in accessing services for their children.

“It will guide local services in the area of health and education and improve early years services for Pacific Island migrant children in the Mildura region.”

Occupational Therapist at Sunraysia Community Health Services and Monash adjunct Fiona Tipping said gaps in early childhood development were significant, and by the time children started school it was hard to change their developmental pathway. 

“School ‘unreadiness’ is costly for schools and communities to address and comes at the expense of the child’s future potential in our society,” Ms Tipping said.

Ms Tipping said the Mildura region had a high proportion of children who were considered developmentally vulnerable.

“The Mildura region has a diverse population. The Pacific Island migrant community is one of the larger migrant groups in this region, with approximately 2000 Pacific Islanders from Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji and the Solomon Islands,” Ms Tipping said.

“A recent Mildura RC investigation found the number of children in the community, particularly Tongan and Samoan children, who are accessing funded kindergarten places in the year before starting school was extremely low. There are also low rates of utilisation of paediatric allied health services.”

Ms Tipping said it was hoped the study would improve developmental outcomes for this highly vulnerable group of children, improve school readiness, and long term health and education outcomes.

The researchers are calling on parents from Pacific Island migrant communities in the Mildura region, who have a 4-5 year-old child due to start school in 2014, to participate in the study.

Those wanting to participate in the study should contact +61 3 5022 5444 or [email protected].

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