IMPROVING education outcomes and cultural safety are themes of Wimmera children's programs shortlisted for awards.
Four Wimmera groups were for the Victorian Early Years Awards. These include the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership's BY FIVE initiative, Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative's Delkaia Aboriginal Best Start Program and the Wimmera Southern Mallee's Local Learning and Employment Network's Let's Read Wimmera.
The awards celebrate the contributions that individuals and organisations make to improving the lives of Victorian children and their families. Winners receive up to $15,000 to further develop their work or professional development.
Goolum Goolum community services manager John Gorton said the organisation was one of six Aboriginal co-operatives statewide to offer Best Start, and had been for more than 20 years.
"Best Start is funded by the Department of Education based on formal partnership with service providers to plan, deliver and monitor strategies to improve outcomes for children," he said.
"The community gets surveyed and provides feedback to us about some of their experiences in the early year services - whether it's based on environment or policy.
"Say for example the service doesn't feel culturally safe, we will help facilitate what they then can do to make their service more culturally safe. Whether that's providing more Aboriginal resources, toys, having a flag flying or having an acknowledgement to country at the front door - things like that."
Mr Gorton, a Wotjobaluk man, said the co-operative had worked with Horsham Rural City Council to improve key ages and stages visits through the maternal child health nurse.
"I think in the last 12 months it has had a 96 per cent success rate for Aboriginal kids having their visits - which is about six per cent more than the wider community," he said.
"That's a pretty big deal for our community. Having the maternal child health nurse at Goolum once a month and making small changes in the physical environment makes it more welcoming and families more likely to come and visit - not only at Goolum, but Kalkee Road Hub, too."
The BY FIVE initiative was developed as a result of the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership Assembly process in 2016. Deputy chairwoman Emma Vogel said the program aims to ensure early years services in each community worked together to support families before their children turned five.
Dimboola delegates of the BY FIVE program are separately shortlisted for an Early Years Award for creating a new directory for professionals from beyond the town, containing useful information for raising a child.
Former playgroup president Hannah Young said she and several others identified many professionals were not always aware of available services.
Dimboola mum-of-two and past local playgroup president Hannah Young said the new directory began with information on allied health and expanded to include other services.
"There is information on domestic violence services but also when the library is open," she said. "We found a lot of services were based in Horsham but would come out (to Dimboola)."
The awards ceremony is on October 22.
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