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What the evidence says

All children and young people have a right to reach their full potential and fortunately, the vast majority of children in Victoria have a good start in life. They grow up cherished and nurtured in a secure and loving family and get the support from their community or services when they need it. This positive start in life sets children up for a successful transition to school, learning, resilient physical and mental health and eventually finding decent work.

The Victorian Government established the Area Partnerships because many children and young people in Victoria still face significant obstacles to living a happy and fulfilling life. Many fall behind their peers early and never catch up. The causes of children's and young people’s vulnerability are complex but we also know what it takes to tip the scales back in their favour.

Children’s early years matter. Early childhood experiences have a long-term effect on children’s brain development, physical and mental health, learning and behaviour.

While most children in Victoria grow up healthy and well, Aboriginal children and children in low income families are more likely to experience health concerns which continue into their adult lives. Before a child is born, poor maternal health can also negatively impact on a child’s long term wellbeing. Child and family health services can help identify issues early and get the supports in place to get children’s health back on track. Access to early learning opportunities is also important to children’s long term development. Participation in quality child care and kindergarten helps children develop the social, mental and physical skills necessary to thrive at school and later on in the workforce.

Parents, carers, and families play a crucial role in ensuring children have the best possible start in life. Supported and supportive families contribute to positive child development, adolescent health and long term wellbeing.

A strong home learning environment also helps children transition to and progress through school successfully. The one in five children who start school developmentally vulnerable often struggle with learning to read and write in the years to come and have poorer education outcomes in the longer term.

Children and young people who grow up in families with an unstable home environment are much more likely to have behavioural and emotional difficulties. Children’s and young people’s development improves when parents are supported by appropriate services and community.

Children and young people that attend school regularly have better learning and life outcomes. Conversely, frequent absences from school can often have a negative impact on children and young people as they progress through life. Absences are especially a challenge for Aboriginal children and young people as well as those in out-of-home care. Students who don’t often make it to school are at the highest risk of: dropping out early, becoming long term unemployed, living in poverty and involvement in the criminal justice system.

Absences from school in Victoria begin to increase from year 5 and peak in Years 8 and 9. So young Victorians need targeted supports as they transition from primary school to high school to address the social factors which contribute to absenteeism such as: an unstable family environment, stress and bullying at school and not having a trusted adult in their lives.

Most Victorian families have a good informal support system around them to help them through times of difficulty or crisis. Sadly, this is not true for all families. A small number of Victorian families report that they can’t get the support they need from their community when they most need it. Strong communities can help families to feel connected and supported.

Family violence, child abuse and neglect are also major barriers to children and young people growing up happy, healthy and safe. Family violence can have a negative long term impact on children and young people’s physical and mental health and can lead to long term struggles with low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Family violence is a major driver of children and young people entering the child protection system in Victoria. Fortunately, children and young people who witness or endure family violence can do just as well as others if they receive support and appropriate care and services.

This information was sourced from: