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Our vision for the early childhood sector

Evidence tells us that the best chance to change lifelong outcomes for children is to change what happens in early childhood. Despite this, the mainstream early childhood system often does not have the appropriate conditions, supports or services for all children to thrive.  

SVA’s focus is on progressing a shift towards a proactive and responsive child and family system that delivers genuine investment in prevention and early supports to families that need it most. Together with our partners, we have embarked on a series of ambitious, high impact initiatives intended to transform the system to be more proactive, coordinated and child-centred.

The issue

We know that for children to thrive, they need to be nourished within a supporting home environment, stable and healthy housing, an inclusive and supportive community, and have access to basic infrastructure and services to support child and family needs.

Yet for many children this is not happening, resulting in developmental delays during childhood, and an increased likelihood of experiencing disadvantage later in life.

Significant research has identified the key drivers of better outcomes for children, but the system fails to provide targeted, high quality and accessible supports to the children and families who need them most.

1 in 6

Australian children live in poverty


only of 3 year olds participate in pre-primary education in Australia compared with the OECD average of 68.6%


of children in Australia are developmentally vulnerable when they start school*


of children admitted into out-of-home care in 2017-2018 were aged birth to 4


of family support and child protection funding was invested in early intervention**

16 billion

is spent by Government every year on high-intensity and crisis services as a result of intervening too late

*increasing to 33% for children living in areas of socio-economically disadvantage and 44% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

**in 2017-2018 ($999 million), compared with $4.8 billion spent on child protection and out of home care

Our initiatives

1. Mobilising integrated child and family services to transcend disadvantage, through:

  • Evaluating, replicating, scaling, and advocating for better models of integrated, holistic early learning services,  
  • Exploring the barriers and enablers to better meet children’s and families’ needs and mobilising around opportunities for change, and 
  • Building sector and government capability for implementation. 

Our priorities in FY22 are: 

  • Working towards replication of the ground-breaking Early Years Education Program across at least 4 sites, 
  • Supporting, networking and mobilising integrated child and family service leaders across Australia, and 
  • Exploring opportunities to see integrated child and family service models meet their potential and to build the evidence base on how they can best meet child and family needs. 

2.  Transforming First Nations Access to Early Learning, through:

Supporting a strong and vibrant First Nations early learning sector as an effective way to support children and families to access quality early learning and thrive. This is a collaborative project with SNAICC – the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. 

Our priorities in FY22 are: 

  • Trialling an innovative state-wide First Nations intermediary support model in NSW, 
  • Co-designing a second state-wide First Nations intermediary support model, 
  • Supporting First Nations peak bodies as effective voices to represent the needs of children and families, and
  • Mobilising around opportunities to enhance First Nations early years workforce policy and programs. 

3. Enabling an effective eco-system for children to thrive, through:

  • Fostering a sector-wide approach to effectively redress the root causes and systemic forces that create and sustain disadvantage in the early years, 
  • Establishing a field catalyst to lead different ways of working through systems mapping and modelling, collective strategy development, convening and advocacy. This is a collaborative project with the National Early Years Catalysing Group (EYCG), a collective of organisations that emerged from the National Early Years Summit held in March 2020 to ignite systems change in the early years, and 
  • Identifying and progressing strategic opportunities to disrupt, nudge or enhance the system to see more children thriving in the early years in Australia. 

Our priorities in FY22 are:  

  • Creating the foundations for a catalysing group to act as an effective field catalyst for early childhood development​,  
  • Undertaking a participatory systems mapping and modelling project on the conditions holding inequity in place in the early years, and 
  • Activating a field-led national early childhood development blueprint for improving outcomes in the early years in Australia. 

Our work

Exploring holistic and integrated early learning services

Exploring holistic and integrated early learning services

SVA commissioned the Centre for Community Child Health (MCRI) to explore the potential of integrated child and family centre service models to support children and families experiencing vulnerability.

Read more
Making a difference to children and families

Making a difference to children and families

Our research with the Brotherhood of St Laurence and ANU looks at the role that social security payments play in shaping poverty and financial stress trends in Australia

Read more
Webinar: reducing JobSeeker poverty rates

Webinar: reducing JobSeeker poverty rates

In this webinar, we discuss how a 10% increase in social security spending could cut poverty rates for JobSeeker recipients from 88% to 34%, providing a boost of $190 a week for the essentials.

Watch now
Open letter to the Prime Minster: JobKeeper payments

Open letter to the Prime Minster: JobKeeper payments

In an August 2020 open letter, we joined a coalition of 20 community groups to ask for an adequate and permanent increase to JobKeeper and other related payments beyond Covid-19.

Read now

Our priorities in FY21

  • Codifying evidence on the features of an early childhood development model that best supports outcomes for children experiencing socio-economic vulnerability and family stress
  • Supporting the establishment of a series of trials of intensive early childhood development services
  • Exploring a national early childhood development policy framework for quality early childhood development supports to children with multiple and complex needs from birth to six
  • Co-designing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander intermediary service for early years services
  • Exploring and documenting the impact of Australia’s welfare system on children
  • Supporting collective development of a national early years’ blueprint for children

We continue to seek bold funding partners

Work with us to reinvert the system and provide high quality, preventative supports to children and families with complex and multiple needs, so families can function well and support their children to thrive.

Thank you to our program partners

Alex Wenderoth and Daniel Beer
Australian Childrens Education Fund, a subfund of Australian Communities Foundation
Berg Family Foundation
BHP Foundation
The Bryan Foundation
Chris Harrop
GNS Ceramics

Graf Family
Heather and William Webster, AM
The Ian Potter Foundation
The J. Permsew Foundation
King Wood Mallesons (pro bono)
The Lowitja Institute
Paul Ramsay Foundation

To become involved

Emma Sydenham

Emma Sydenham

Director, Early Childhood

Emma is the Director of Early Childhood at Social Ventures Australia (SVA).

Contact Emma
Caitlin Graham

Caitlin Graham

Program Manager, Early Childhood

Caitlin is a Program Manager, Early Childhood at SVA.

Contact Caitlin