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Minister launches $44million blueprint for 21st century early childhood learning

Australia’s Minister for Social Services The Hon Scott Morrison MP officially opened the most sophisticated early childhood teaching, research and community engagement initiative ever undertaken in Australia on Wednesday 8 July at UOW.

Early Start consists of a $44m transformational infrastructure investment together with a continuing commitment from UOW and its partners. The Early Start initiative is focused on creating educational programs, experiences and networks that enrich the way we understand and interact with children, families and communities.

Early Start consists of:

  • an international hub for multidisciplinary research, tackling issues as varied as cognitive development, healthy lifestyles, digital learning and literacy, and social inclusion
  • cutting-edge courses for the next generation of professionals focussed on the earliest years of life with state of the art education facilities and some of the best academic staff in the world, providing the opportunity to create transformational learning experiences for students working with children, families and communities
  • a partnership with 41 early childhood education and care centres across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory who are helping to inform and pioneer innovation in the early years and translate research into practice
  • the Early Start Discovery Space – Australia’s only dedicated  ‘children’s museum’ promoting learning through play and the importance of life-long learning.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said the University is thrilled to launch such an important initiative committed to social transformation for children, families and communities.

Early Start is a first for Australia and we hope it will become a model for the world.

The initiative aims to give children the best possible start in life and is particularly focused on bringing about better outcomes for children from regional, rural, remote and disadvantaged communities.

The vision for Early Start became a reality in 2012 when UOW received a $31 million grant from the Federal Government to build the Early Start Facility. During its planning stage, UOW also received its largest-ever philanthropic gift of $7 million from a private donor (the Abbott Foundation), specifically for the establishment of the Discovery Space.

VC and Scott Morrison
Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings with The Hon Scott Morrison MP.

Early childhood expert and UOW’s Academic Head of Early Start Professor Marc de Rosnay said there is now overwhelming evidence showing that the earliest years of life are of disproportionate significance for development, and it is during these early years that we can make the most profound positive impact on children’s lives.

“Research shows that the effect of high-quality early education, particularly when coupled with support services and family inclusion, can dramatically turn around the cycle of under-achievement educationally, socially and emotionally.”

“By partnering with 41 early childhood education and care centres in regional, rural and remote areas Early Start is bridging the traditionally divide between research and practice using a technologically enhanced engagement model. Through our Early Start Research Institute we are putting best practice into practice. Our technological infrastructure allows leading researchers to connect directly with any one of the 41 engagement centres, and to facilitate networks between them.”

Early Start Chief Operating Officer Ms Michelle Kellaway said the Discovery Space, which opened on 20 May, has already seen an influx of visitors. “We’ve welcomed over 10,000 visitors to the space since opening. In fact over 200 families have enjoyed the Discovery Space so much they have already returned more than 3 times in the first month.”

The Discovery Space is symbolic of the broader Early Start initiative. It allows children carers and educators to benefit from the resources and rich intellectual capital of a university and helps to raise aspirations by connecting these groups with a university campus.

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