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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 24 November 2005) . . Page.. 4615 ..

Early development index

MS PORTER: My question is to the Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support. Minister, I understand the Australian early development index was released today by the Centre for Community Child Health. Can you update the Assembly on the ACT results in relation to this index?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Porter for her question. The pilot program, the Australian early development index, was released by Senator Kay Patterson earlier today. It is a commonwealth government initiative under the national agenda for early childhood. It is one of those programs that I think will grow in importance. It is a great program, and I do not mind acknowledging good programs when they come about.

The index is a population measure of young children’s development, based on the scores of a teacher-completed checklist. The checklist covers students in kindergarten and is collated on a suburb by suburb basis. This year the program was run in Gungahlin. Six government and Catholic primary schools participated in the project, involving 24 teachers and 450 students, and it was coordinated by the Gungahlin child and family centre.

As members would know, the Gungahlin community is a fast-growing community with the highest number of children aged from nought to 14 in the territory. The residential population of the area is almost 30,000, with 2,650 aged between nought and six. It therefore proved an excellent location to trial the early development index in Canberra.

The pilot provided the ACT government, in partnership with the local community, the opportunity to strengthen collaboration between schools, early childhood services and agencies supporting young children and families. The project assessed children’s development in five key areas: physical health and wellbeing; social competence and wellbeing; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge.

The project showed excellent results in Gungahlin, with almost 75 per cent of children in Gungahlin performing well in one or more developmental domains; this is compared to the national average of 65.1 per cent. So children in Gungahlin are performing on average at about 10 per cent above the national average. “Performing well” is defined as children in the top 25 per cent of those surveyed nationally. Of the developmental domains, Gungahlin children are experiencing high levels of physical health and wellbeing, with 50.6 per cent performing well. In communication skills and general knowledge, 49.8 per cent of Gungahlin children are at the “performing well” level, and 44.2 per cent of the children are performing at the “well” level in language and cognitive skills. Children in Palmerston are performing particularly well, with 83.6 per cent in the “performing well” bracket.

The results in terms of vulnerable children are also encouraging: 14.7 per cent of Gungahlin children are vulnerable in one or more developmental domains, compared to a national average of 22.6 per cent. Vulnerability is defined as children in the bottom 10 per cent of those surveyed in the national project. While any child in a vulnerable situation is concerning, it is encouraging that our commitment to early development,

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