Working Paper

Toward a Comprehensive Early Childhood Development System: Evidence-Based Strategies for Implementation

Published: 2022

Non-technical summary

Australia faces deep and persistent socioeconomic inequality and disadvantage that continue to produce significant disparities in the early development of children and subsequently have long-lasting implications for the health, wellbeing, and prosperity of these young people. Past decades of research have demonstrated that acting during these early years to address these inequalities of outcomes are of significant benefit, cost effective and important for promoting the overall health of the population. The question now is not whether to invest, but how best to invest for the greatest impact.  How can government work best to lead, strategise, prepare, roll out and sustain innovative evidence-based policy and programming to support optimal child development?

Frameworks to support and promote early childhood development (ECD) have outlined several key domains of focus: early learning and care, child and maternal health services, child development services, child safety services, child-focused community services, and family-focused government expenditure and fiscal policy. However, core challenges to the implementation of such frameworks are (a) the disjointed and siloed nature of service planning and delivery amongst the various line agencies and non-governmental organisations, and (b) provision of services that fail to reach their target clients due to perceived barriers to access. This report provides a framework for the establishment, maintenance, evaluation and scaling up of a whole-of-government system to optimise early childhood development. The framework presented here outlines global evidence from research on large-scale government efforts to develop cross-sectoral national initiatives to improve child health and wellbeing.  This framework builds on five phases: establishment of visionary leadership, exploration, preparation, implementation, and continuation. This five-phase model is derived from available evidence on whole-of-government multi-sectoral coordination and integration to achieve widespread improvement in policy and service to benefit children and families.



Runions, K., Cahill, R., and Markham, R. (2022). ‘Toward a Comprehensive Early Childhood Development System: Evidence-Based Strategies for Implementation’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2022-15. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.