Our story

An evidence-based model conceived of and led by Indigenous people to foster resilience, leadership and innovation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families through focusing on the period from pre-conception to the age of two. 

How we started

Since 2014, Professor Kerry Arabena, a descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait, has led the development of the First 1000 Days Australia movement in Australia. Her 2014 article in the Medical Journal of Australia outlined the need to catalyse health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families from pre-conception until a child’s second birthday. Since this time, she has developed education and training programs, resources, undertaken numerous presentations and facilitated summits and forums for First 100 Days Australia.

Developed by the Indigenous Health Equity Unit at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Health Equity (2014–2018), First 1000 Days Australia used an ecological framework of social, cultural, place-based and family-based interventions to provide comprehensive regional strategies aimed at strengthening families from pre-conception until a child’s second birthday. We undertook research across two sites in Queensland, and catalysed regional efforts in Alice Springs, and Healesville and Dandenong in Victoria. From this work, we were able to generate evidence showing the benefits of taking a collective approach to strengths-based strategies for working with families and carers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership

With support from a panel of advisors, First 1000 Days Australia works with consultants, trainers and partners to provide strong foundations in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families by:

  • employing Indigenous methods of knowledge generation and promoting collective impact

  • being an Indigenous-led, holistic initiative with interventions designed and implemented under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community direction 

  • engaging young people, families and carers of infants and strengthening their extended family and community networks

  • involving health care workers, community organisations and all levels of government to address local and systemic-level issues contributing to the growing gap in infant and parental health and wellbeing

  • supporting service providers to act on evidence and build service and regional-level capacity to respond to stated need

  • combining population-level approaches, political and advocacy experience, capacity building and knowledge exchange

  • enhancing family empowerment and financial resilience using family-based enterprise.

First 1000 Days Australia – Now an Indigenous business

What started as a research project through the University of Melbourne became an implementation partnership between the University and Save the Children Australia. When this partnership was unable to secure ongoing funding, the registered Trademark for First 1000 Days Australia was given to Weyarn Pty Ltd, a social and emotional wellbeing enterprise owned and operated by Managing Director, Kerry Arabena.  

Professor Kerry Arabena left her position as Chair of Indigenous Health at the University of Melbourne to become a full-time business owner and, in July 2019, First 1000 Days Australia became an Indigenous business, owned and operated by Weyarn Pty Ltd, a company registered with Kinaway Chamber of Commerce and Supply Nation.  

First 1000 Days Australia is part of an Indigenous business ecosystem offering professional support, education, training and strategic development services involving peer researchers, life coaches and mentors to work with families, children, service providers, funders, and policy makers and implementers. Using evidence generated by the University of Melbourne, the Lowitja Institute and other research agencies, First 1000 Days Australia is a for-profit entity, We generate income through professional development, coaching, mentoring, education and training programs to invest back into community initiatives and infrastructure, scholarships, media and training opportunities to provide care for this generation and the next.