Dental check-ups, early screening for developmental issues, accommodation for daycare workers and a brand-new childcare centre are among the initiatives being established through the Early Years Partnership.

The partnership is a joint venture, now in its fourth year, between the Cook government and Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, which has contributed $19 million.

Around 2700 kids are expected to benefit from the projects, which have been developed through close collaboration with the four communities in which they will be located: Armadale, Katanning and surrounds, Derby and Bidyadanga.

A new Early Learning and Family Centre will be constructed in Derby and homes built for visiting early years and family support service providers in Bidyadanga.

Child dental health services will be expanded in the Great Southern around Katanning and both child and maternity check-ups offered out of Armadale.

The Early Years Partnership aims to deliver a wide range of programs and services targeted at children aged four years and younger, providing them with the best possible start to life.

Premier Roger Cook said his brother was a primary school teacher and often said by the time children arrived in his classroom it was “too late” and they were “already behind the start line”.

“We know that 90 per cent of a child’s brain development takes place in the first five years of their life,” he said.

“But often by the time they get to school, they’re already experiencing disadvantage and developmental delay.

“We know that investing in a kid’s early years is an investment in that kid’s future, and it’s an investment in that kid’s community’s future.”


Ms Forrest said the Early Years Partnership aimed to drive “intergenerational change” by working directly with communities to identify and fill gaps in services for young children and their families.

“The brain is formed between the conception and the first five years of life. So why are we not acting and budgeting accordingly?” Ms Forrest said.

“This is the first step and I really am proud The West Australian government has taken this lead for us to change the dial in Australia.”

Community Services Minister Sabine Winton said children that received the appropriate supports in the first five years of their life were far more likely to “reach their potential”.

“(These projects) haven’t been plucked out of the sky,” Ms Winton said.

“These have been developed by listening and working with communities in very unique locations to tell us what they know they need to support their young children.”

Original article written by Josh Zimmerman and published in The West Australian on 3 May 2024.

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