One of the driving forces behind a program to improve the lives of the Wimmera's youngest residents has praised the region's "smart people" for developing local solutions.
Karen Modoo, of the BY FIVE initiative, says the project now has the potential to create system-wide change in early years education across Victoria.
Her comments come after the initiative won the "Continuity of Early Learning" category of the Victorian Early Years Awards in Melbourne on Tuesday, October 22.
"The project involved 50 other partner organisations, and it was launched in March 2018 by the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership," she said.
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"It's involved myself and Rachel Robinson from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute supporting childcare, kinders and schools across 15 towns in the Wimmera to develop projects to help children before they turned five."
Mrs Modoo said the project involved "significant work" for the organisations participating. She said the BY FIVE initiative involved them finding innovative ways to use their existing funding
"As an example, the early years partnership in Nhill has made a decision for West Wimmera Health Service to establish a Positive Parenting Centre," she said.
"It's providing support to mums with babies who are quite unsettled, and for parents with difficulty looking after the newborn child.
"Up until now they've had to go to a centre in Melbourne, and for some that'snot doable because you've got transport costs involved, or if they help run a farm."
Mrs Modoo said the partnership in Stawell was looking at a proposal to extend maternal and child health services to take in children up to eight years old, up from the current three years old.
A spokeswoman for the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Partnership said the prize money of $15,000 would be used to ensure people across the region received more opportunities to come together to learn and be inspired by each other.
Mrs Modoo said there were plans to showcase the BY FIVE initiative to other organisations from across the state in Melbourne in April.
She said the state government provided $350,000 in funding to support two full-time positions as part of the initiative.
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