Supporting children and families

A positive start in life helps children thrive. The right support provided at the right time helps children develop to their fullest, setting them up to become healthy and resilient adults.

The foundations for health and wellbeing throughout life are established from the early developmental years, starting at conception.

Children and their families need support during this important time of development so they can enjoy the best possible health and wellbeing.

The Australian Early Development Census measures how young children have developed by the time they start their first year of full-time school (Kindergarten in the ACT).

These census results tell us that most children in the ACT are developmentally on track when they start school. However, results also show an increase in the number of children experiencing developmental vulnerability in areas such as emotional maturity and physical health and wellbeing. Without the right supports these children may be at risk of a difficult start to school or experience ongoing educational challenges that may adversely impact their long-term health.

Investing in the early years before starting school is essential to reverse this trend by supporting more children to enjoy good health and quality of life as they grow.

What we want to achieve

  • Families are supported to optimise the healthy development of their children in the first 1000 days.
  • More children are physically, socially and emotionally ready to start school.

What is the ACT Government already doing in this area?

Set up for Success: An Early Childhood Strategy for the ACT
Set up for Success is a 10-year plan for early childhood education and care in the ACT seeks to give all children the best possible start in life with the fairest opportunities to learn. A key initiative under Set up for Success is delivering universal access to preschool for 3-year olds.
Best Start for Canberra’s Children: the First 1000 Days Strategy (Best Start)
Best Start is a 10-year strategy for supporting children and families during the first 1000 days from conception to around aged 2. A key focus of Best Start is to support more children to be developmentally on track when starting school.
Physiotherapy Services

The Paediatric Physiotherapy Service provides physiotherapy for babies, children and adolescents. The Women’s Health Physiotherapy Service provides physiotherapy care for people during their pregnancy and up to 3 months after the birth. The Women, Youth and Children Physiotherapy team provides services for babies aged 3-12 months and women during pregnancy and the first 12 months postnatally and up to 3 months after the birth.

Nutrition Service
The Women, Youth and Children Community Nutrition Service provides free nutrition assessment, counselling and advice for children, young people, pregnant women and women up to 2 years after giving birth. They also provide group sessions on introducing solids and fussy eating. Children aged 4-12 years needing weight management support can be referred to the School Kids Intervention Program child obesity service.
Early Parenting Counselling Service

The Early Parenting Counselling Service provides mothers, fathers and other primary caregivers with therapeutic support and advice to better manage and overcome challenges that may arise in the early stage of family life.

Early Parenting Support
The Early Parenting Support Phone Line provides information, advice and referral for families on child health and development, breastfeeding and emotional wellbeing concerns.
National Immunisation Program
The ACT Immunisation Unit distributes childhood vaccines to immunisation providers every year including to organisations that provide healthcare for vulnerable populations. Canberra Health Services provides vaccination through the Child and Adolescent Immunisation program.
Maternity in Focus - The Public Maternity System Plan for 2022 – 2032
The Maternity in Focus plan is a holistic approach to maternity system reform, underpinned by a focus on individualised care, equity and evidence to better support the needs of people accessing the public maternity systems and the multidisciplinary health professionals working within the system.
ACT Health Promotion Grants program
In 2022, the Healthy Canberra Grants: Focus on Supporting Healthy and Active Children and Young People round was announced with a budget of
$1.6 million. Recipients were announced in
May 2023.