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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Early childhood development

By supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to grow up healthy, happy and ready for school, we can build a future full of prosperity and opportunity for the next generation.

The early years, from conception to the first year of school, is a critical period of life (Arabena et al., 2016). During this time, a child’s cognitive function, physical, social and emotional wellbeing is under rapid and critical development. We know that what happens during early childhood affects a person’s later health, wellbeing, educational attainment and employment opportunities (Arabena et al., 2016).

The NIAA is working with communities, governments and service providers to ensure young children have access to good quality, culturally safe and accessible care and education services. This means that when children go to school they will have a better chance of success.

The Indigenous Advancement Strategy

Through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), the Australian Government is investing $48 million over the period 2020-21 in a range of early childhood development and enabling activities, like supported playgroups, and community and family engagement activities. This funding supplements mainstream Commonwealth support in childcare, pre-school, health and family support programs.

Development of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Childhood Strategy

To support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to thrive in their earliest years, the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP announced the development of a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Childhood Strategy (Strategy) in the 2020 Closing the Gap Statement. The Strategy is to be finalised in 2021 and will be a long-term approach to refocus policy and investment to outcomes that support Indigenous children and their families.

The NIAA is working in partnership with SNAICC, the peak representative organisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to develop the Strategy. Over the coming months, SNAICC will lead a co-design process, to ensure that it reflects the views and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, service delivery organisations and other key experts

Closing the Gap National Agreement and Targets

The National Agreement on Closing the Gap (National Agreement), which came into effect on 27 July 2020, was developed and agreed in genuine partnership between all Australian governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations. The agreement recognises that the only way to close the gap is when Indigenous Australians own commit to and drive the outcomes sought, alongside all governments. There are several targets and outcomes focussed on early childhood, including:

  • Children are born healthy and strong;  
  • Children are engaged in high quality, culturally appropriate early childhood education in their early years; and
  • Children thrive in their early years. See Closing the Gap for more information.


Arabena, A., Ritte, R., Panozzo, S., Leah, J., & Rowley, K. (2016). First 1000 days Australia: An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led early life intervention. Aboriginal and Islander Health Work Journal vol. 40. P 21-22.

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