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In Western Australia, there is readily available evidence that as many as one in five children have developmental vulnerabilities at four years of age. CoLab is committed to better understanding why this occurs and determining what policy and practice actions are needed to ensure all children have the best possible start to life.

This series of Policy Papers provides an analysis of early childhood vulnerability in Western Australia, offers models for improved early childhood policy and practice in the future before presenting reasoned, evidence-based options and recommendations for the state’s policy makers.

While it is vital to continue to keep an eye to the future and to challenge ourselves to do better in childhood wellbeing and development, it is also important to take stock and look back to national and state achievements, acknowledging the many past successes resulting from the combined efforts of people, organisations and governments across the communities of our state.

Early childhood wellbeing and development in WA, like elsewhere in Australia, has been a story in parts. But there is much to celebrate, while acknowledging the work of many.

In the second paper in the series we look at the development and learning status of Western Australia’s children

What is the development and learning status of Western Australia’s children? How many of our children are developmentally vulnerable? Understanding this is a necessary starting point for analysing and devel-oping current policy and practice.

While information on childhood health, development and learning is readily available, it is not often collated and summarised. Here we offer highlights and snapshots, to make the necessary key points.

In this Policy Paper, we shift focus to the services and programs that support young children and their families. What are they?  Are they operating effectively an efficiently?  Most importantly, what are the issues?  Paper 3 provides important insights in easy to understand language for all people interested in the development and learning of Western Australia’s children. 

Paper 4 of this series considers the increasingly clear picture research is painting about the needs of Western Australian families with young children and the best ways to support them.

It is important to note that research is telling a consistent and persuasive story about the importance of the early years to the future prosperity of each child and the nation.

Decisions will need to be made in our community to overcome some of the pressing threads to the optimal early development of our children and to guarantee our future position as a prosperous State in a developed country.

This fifth paper in the CoLab Policy Paper Series unpacks the above vision of how an early childhood service system for Western Australia could look and outlines what is involved.  It has been written to stimulate discussion amongst early childhood practitioners and policy makers in Western Australia and beyond, and is especially pertinent at this time of unprecedented upheaval associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.  The pandemic has demonstrated the capacity of governments and service providers to be nimble and to ‘think outside the square’ so, in coming months and years as work proceeds to re-establish early childhood service arrangements in Western Australia, the opportunity to rebuild better should be grasped with both hands.