Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 24 November 2016



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 24 November 2016

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Parliamentary Record 2


Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




pp 503 to 561


Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Thursday 24 November 2016 506 measures childhood development under five areas: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; school-based language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge. Each area has a set of characteristics. These characteristics tell us if our childrens development is on track, developmentally at risk or developmentally vulnerable. Every three years the Australian Early Development Census collects this national data as children start their first year of full-time school. It gives us a picture of how well we are raising children before they get to school. It can show us how ready they are, as well as how ready their families and communities are to raise children. The census gives us a picture of childrens development across Australia. I will provide you with the Australian Early Development Census example of how we can understand information about our children. One example is the area of language and cognitive skills. Children who are developmentally on track in this domain will be interested in books, reading, writing and basic mathematics, capable of reading and writing simple sentences and complex words, and able to count and recognise numbers and shapes. Children who have been identified as developmentally at risk under this domain may have a number of literacy difficultiesfor example, not recognising shapes, numbers and lettersand not be able to write their name or count to 20; have difficulty remembering things; show a lack of interest in books, reading, mathematics and numbers; and not have mastered more advanced literacy skills, such as reading and writing simple words or sentences. It is quite easy for us to recognise the difference between kids on track and those at risk. The difference is even more evident when children have been identified as developmentally vulnerable. They will experience a number of challenges relating to emotional regulation. These children, for example, have problems managing aggressive behaviour, are prone to disobedience and/or are easily distracted and are inattentive and impulsive. These children will not usually help others and are sometimes upset when left by their caregiver. I have only provided a snapshot of characteristics of one area. We can all envision the different types of responses, programs and support necessary to not only respond to those children at risk who are identified as vulnerable, but also ensure those who are on track stay on track. However, what if our children are at risk or vulnerable in more than one area? What if our children are vulnerable in more than two areas? What does our response look like then? Is it the same or is it different? What else do we need to think about? In 2015 the Australian Early Development Census identified the majority, 62.8%, of Northern Territory fiveyear-olds were on track. However, more than one third, 37.2%, were developmentally vulnerable in one or more areas. Being developmentally vulnerable means these children have a greater risk of struggling with transition to formal learning. Nearly one quarter, 23.1%, of Territory children were developmentally vulnerable in two or more of those areas. These children will require special support to be able to keep up with their Year 1 classmates. Tragically, our childhood development trends lag behind the rest of the country. However, in some cases that data shows that some communities have seen decreases in vulnerability for children across some of the developmental areas. In Alice Springs there has been a 2.5% decrease in vulnerability for children in their language and cognitive skills. The Darwin community has seen 3.5% and 2.7% decreases in vulnerability in childrens language and communication respectively. The Katherine community has seen a decrease in vulnerability across five areas, including 11.7% and 9.6% decreases in the proportion of children vulnerable on one and two or more areas respectively. While we have a significant proportion doing well, and we have seen improvements in some areas and communities, we need to do much more. In early childhood we are naturally talking about and focusing on children, but we have to recognise that children come with their own, often varied, families and family circumstances. There are their parents, siblings, aunties, uncles and grandparents. We need an approach which recognises that many things impact on the wellbeing of children. These include safe and stable housing, healthy food, clothing, opportunities to participate in sport, access to medical help when they need it and access to school. To do all this, mums and dads, or any primary caregiver, are best placed when they have a job and job security. They need to be able to access transport to do the things they want and need to do, and for their children.