Page 3658 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 November 2022

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We want all families to feel supported so that their children have every opportunity to develop to their full potential. We heard from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members that there need to be more options which allow people to make their own choices about what services and supports they can access. But we must ensure that all services and supports are welcoming and culturally safe for First Nations people. We will continue working with and listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, in pursuit of genuine change.

Best Start identified four goals that will guide action and investment over the next few years and beyond: increasing community awareness about the importance of the first 1,000 days; enabling parents to be confident and supported; providing services to all families; and fostering connected communities. We want all families to have access to appropriate supports from conception, through pregnancy, to birth, and through the early years.

As minister for both health and families and community services, I have a broad perspective of the crucial importance of early support in the trajectory of a child’s life. We know that a child’s experience through the first 1,000 days lays the foundation for long-term health and wellbeing. This is why prevention is the best approach to reduce the chances of a child experiencing long-term chronic health issues or developmental delays. One parent put it pretty succinctly during the consultations: “There need to be early assessments to uncover issues. The earlier they are treated, the better.”

We need to have services in place to follow such assessments and to reassure parents about their vital role in supporting their child’s development. That is why Minister Berry’s announcement alongside Best Start was so important.

We know that parents are a child’s first and most important teachers, and they play a vital role in a child’s development. But this is not always an easy job. There is strong recognition in Best Start that parents need support from the community, and from services, to feel confident. Parents do not exist in isolation, and their children do not, either. They need to feel connected to the community. Best Start demonstrates our commitment to partnering more closely with the community sector to strengthen existing services and to improve communication and continuity between services.

Best Start aims to lift health literacy in our community by creating more awareness and understanding of how to best support child development through the first 1,000 days, and how we can empower parents, frontline service providers and other community members to support children to get the best start in life.

The preliminary work for Best Start, as Minister Berry said, was led by Professor Michael Brydon. I want to sincerely thank Professor Brydon for his leadership and expertise. I also want to thank the parents, carers and frontline workers who shared their stories during the development of Best Start.

I want to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of midwives, MACH nurses, GPs, early childhood education and care educators, and a range of frontline community sector workers in the Canberra community, and thank them for the genuine care and professionalism that they exhibit.

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