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Multimillion-dollar early years investment to change lives

8 September 2023

The State Government will support the development of the next generation of young South Australians with more than $4 million to improve literacy and development in the early years.

It follows the release of the Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care handed down last month that recommended the expansion of the Words Grow Minds initiative.

The Words Grow Minds campaign was an initiative of the Department for Education’s Early Learning Strategy and provides information to parents of young children about how best to support their child’s development in the first 1000 days.

Research shows that the first 1000 days are critical to the development of a child’s social and emotional intelligence.

The Words Grow Minds pilot was the first campaign of its kind in South Australia, combining advertising, social media tools and a range of service providers to reinforce key, consistent messages while distributing parent resource packs.

It provides tools, advice and resources to parents and carers to increase interactions with their baby through talking, reading, singing and playing – with research showing these things make a significant difference to brain development.

The program was piloted in November 2022 in Mount Gambier and then in Whyalla in February 2023 by the Early Years Taskforce, a coalition of non-government and government early years services and agencies from across South Australia.

Raising Literacy Australia (RLA) plays the convening role for the Early Years Taskforce, chaired by Kate Ellis, a passionate advocate for early childhood.

“We cannot ignore the fact that South Australian children’s development is behind the national average before they even start school,” said Early Years Taskforce chair Kate Ellis.

“It is so important that our State Government has shown the commitment to turn this around.

“The research is clear, with up to 85 per cent of brain development occurring in a child’s first three years, increasing positive interactions with young children will improve outcomes throughout their entire lives.

“What we are announcing today is an innovative, Australian-first program to do something truly meaningful and change South Australian children’s lives for the better.”

The campaign shows families that all they need to support their children’s growth is their time, attention and imagination, and empowers them with activities and tips to try out at home and in their community.

The State Government has also committed to continue funding of nearly $1 million to RLA for the ongoing production and distribution of packs of books for newborns.

This will enable 21,000 ‘baby book packs’ to be distributed to South Australian families to help support the foundational numeracy and literacy development of children from birth.

This is on top of a further $600,000 will be provided to support more than 23,000 preschool book packs going out to families across the state.

The State Government announced last month it will adopt the very first recommendation in the report to reduce the rate of South Australian children entering school developmentally vulnerable from 23.8 per cent to 15 per cent within 20 years – well below the national average of 22 per cent.

The State Government has committed $70 million to begin immediate work on delivering a further 12 recommendations, including commencement of the rollout of universal three-year-old preschool in 2026.