Early moments matter: addressing disadvantage in the early years so that all Australian children receive the best start in life.
Children who receive adequate health, nutrition, learning opportunities, care and protection – especially in their first 1,000 days of life – tend to have increased cognitive, language and psychosocial development. This enhanced brain development translates into an increased capacity to learn and better academic achievement once they start school.
It is in those early moments that we learn the most in our lives. An estimated 80 per cent of a child’s brain structure is formed in the first 1,000 days of life: from conception to two years of age. The earlier the intervention the greater the effectiveness, hence the sense of urgency.
Australia is rapidly falling behind the rest of the developed world in the provision of early childhood development programs.
Only 15 per cent* of three-year olds in Australia participate in pre-primary education, which falls well below the OECD average of 68 per cent.
Concerningly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are half as likely to access these services as non-Indigenous children. To close this gap and ensure that Indigenous children have access to life-changing health, wellbeing and education, it is critical that early childhood education programs have the necessary funding and support.
Supporting early childhood development in Australia
Pre-school pupils at the UNICEF Australia-supported Indi Kindi program learn the importance of washing hands during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early childhood educators are continuing to deliver an adapted outreach program within community during the pandemic. This program focuses on education, health, and wellbeing for children under five and their families.
UNICEF Australia and partners recognise the importance of investing in early childhood development programs which support a child’s cognitive and physical development during the first 1,000 days of life. By providing good nutrition, healthcare, and education in this critical phase of life, we are laying a solid foundation for children to thrive.