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Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 396. Updated Tuesday, 11 February 2014

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Indigenous focus on early years

A new paper on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website focuses on ways of improving the outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the early childhood years.
 The paper, Review of Early Childhood Parenting, Education and Health Intervention Programs for Indigenous Children and Families in Australia, reviews prevention and early intervention research design and outcomes for more than 50 research reports.
 The strongest evidence of program impact on Indigenous children was for improvements in children’s behaviour and infant health.
 The paper said that child behaviour was improved through programs that involved active skills education for parents and a culturally sensitive approach including the Indigenous Triple P parenting program, the parent-delivered early childhood program HIPPY, and the behaviour-focused Let’s Start Parent-Child program.
 It said measurable improvements in mothers’ and babies’ health came from community-embedded maternal and infant health programs, such as the NSW Aboriginal and Maternal Infant Health Strategy and the Mums and Babies Program.

50 projects reviewed
 “A common characteristic of programs with positive outcomes for children was that they focused strongly on attracting and retaining Indigenous families, often through use of Indigenous workers,” the report stated.
 “A key message from the research was that how a program is delivered was every bit as important as what is delivered.”
 The report found that strategies important in the implementation and delivery of a program included the building of trust and the establishment of relationships with the community and running programs in places that were perceived as comfortable and safe, and where participants felt a sense of ownership and control.
 A second Clearinghouse paper, Supporting Healthy Communities Through Arts Programs, shows that arts programs can have a range of benefits for Indigenous communities, such as increased social inclusion and cohesion, improvements in school retention and attitudes towards learning.

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