ONE in five children in Gunnedah is developmentally vulnerable and not ready to start school at the age of five, according to the 2015 Australian Early Development Census Data.
On Thursday, November 23, Royal Far West, Fairfax Media, and Charles Sturt University are hosting a town hall discussion about developmental vulnerability, and how we can work collaboratively to better support children and their families in Gunnedah.
Royal Far West CEO Lindsay Cane said Royal Far West has been serving country children and communities in Australia for 94 years.
“It’s crucial that children have the opportunity to be ready to learn when they start school,” she said.
“Some children have difficulties making friends, concentrating in the classroom and struggle with learning.
“With help, we can turn this around, ensuring children have a successful school experience, which provides the foundation for greater health, happiness and success in life.”
There are signs that children’s developmental health is worsening in rural and remote Australia.
Royal Far West is a non-government organisation that has been providing health services to children living in rural and remote NSW since 1924.
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Demand for Royal Far West’s programs is growing, as is the complexity of the children and families who seek help.
Developmental vulnerability comes at a high cost to individuals, families and to society as a whole.
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Vulnerable children are at risk of growing up to be vulnerable adults, with poorer educational attainment, higher rates of chronic disease and mental health, and a greater tendency towards unemployment, homelessness and crime.
At scale, this translates to significant costs in education, unemployment, health, social welfare and criminal justice, having significant impact on human capital and economic productivity and, ultimately, Australia’s growth and prosperity.
Sitting on the seven-member panel at the upcoming community meeting is Carolyn Leys, the co-ordinator of Every Gunnedah Child, a program that aims to ensure every five-year-old in Gunnedah is ready to start school and has the best possible start to life.
“We’re exactly on the same page as Royal Far West,” Mrs Leys said.
“There’s a real importance on early childhood in personal development.
“There are studies out there that say if a child is not ready for school by the age of five, they just use band-aid solutions which costs 12 to 17 times more.
“One of my things is, people don’t realise how pertinent this stage of life is.”
Mrs Leys urged all community members to attend the public meeting – even if you don’t have young children – because it’s an issue that affects the entire region.
“Parents are so central to this, that’s the basis of our approach,” she said.
“We want to help the parents help the children.”
Everyone is invited to attend the community meeting at Smithurst Theatre, 152 Conadilly Street, Gunnedah on Thursday, November 23 from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.
Registration and afternoon tea kicks off at 5pm.
Seats are limited. To register, visit www.royalfarwest.org.au/town-hall
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