By SAT News Desk
MELBOURNE, 20 September 2020: Early childhood (0 to 8 years old) is a crucial age when a child needs engagement and that’s possible when access to and connections with early childhood services in the state become vital.
A comprehensive report by a panel of the Victorian Parliament into early childhood engagement by culturally diverse families has made 49 recommendations aimed at improving access to and connections with early childhood services in Victoria.
Presented to the Parliament by the Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee, the report addresses current barriers that culturally diverse families face in accessing services that would help them to feel more connected to the Victorian communities in which they live. It also highlights the importance of early learning opportunities in laying the foundations for children’s long-term development and indicates that this is particularly relevant for children from refugee backgrounds.
“Families continue to experience barriers to accessing early childhood services, such as language and communication barriers, costs, limited awareness of services and their benefits, discrimination and fear of judgement, among others,” said Committee Chair Natalie Suleyman.
“The purpose of this report and its accompanying recommendations is to address these barriers and ensure that services are inclusive in supporting families and their children,” Ms Suleyman said.
Key recommendations include:
*continued funding of community hubs as well-established and evidence-based models for engaging with culturally diverse communities
*mandated training in cultural competency and trauma-informed care for state funded services
strategies and actions to increase the number of bicultural and bilingual workers in early *childhood services
*enhanced support for refugee families by the Maternal and Child Health Service
identifying children of refugee background as a priority group for mental health services
*culturally diverse speech therapy workers to ensure speech and language delay assessments can be conducted in a child’s first language
*funding for playgroups that specifically target culturally diverse communities
targeted funding to assist people from culturally diverse backgrounds to engage in training and development, such as Free TAFE in the early childhood sector
*expanding Early Start Kindergarten to ensure children of refugee background are immediately eligible for free 3-year-old kinder
*adopting a state-wide approach to kindergarten enrolment, with a single, easily accessible and central enrolment process across Victoria.
“Multiculturalism has benefited our state greatly and we need to ensure that the families we welcome to Victoria can access and benefit from early education and health services to enable their children to get the best start in life,” Ms. Suleyman said.
“Families feeling like they belong in the community and in specific environments, such as kindergartens or schools, is critical to successful engagement.”
The Committee received a range of submissions and held a series of public hearings and site visits that allowed it to explore a number of important issues. This included, in particular, the importance of expanding workforce diversity, not only to provide more welcoming spaces for culturally diverse families, but also to create meaningful employment opportunities for individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds.
The report is available from the Committee’s website.