Why First 1000 Days?
The first 1000 days refers to the earliest stage of human development, from pre-conception to the end of a child’s second year. This is time when the foundations of optimum health, growth and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established. New research in Australia and elsewhere is advancing our understanding of the biological processes that shape children and their families during this period, and the impact of early experiences on all aspects of development and functioning including mental health, and social and cognitive development.
What we also understand is that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, the first 1000 days raises significant issues that are particularly concerning for our communities. First 1000 Days Australia readily acknowledges the continuing impact of colonisation and the resultant intergenerational trauma that affects our ability to parent our children in our own way. We also understand the impact of overt and institutional experiences of racism and deeply entrenched experiences of marginalisation, disadvantage and exclusion which has seen some of our families only survive, not thrive.
To ‘be the best we can be’ is the right of every child in Australia. Despite Australia’s prosperity, early intervention supports for families and babies are not always available or accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children who are experiencing vulnerability. As a result, infants born to these families can be subject to poorer health than those born to empowered and resilient families, with life-long health and well-being implications that impact at individual, family, community and within broader society. While there are many programs in place, there is a gap in the development and delivery of coordinated, effective, culturally safe interventions that foster strong partnerships and relationships between expectant parents and care providers within regions.
Focusing on the first 1000 days can support male and female caregivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the following ways:
Grow strong in cultural practices that are specific to their Country and their needs
Focus on the quality of their relationships with themselves, each other and members of their families
Discuss the important roles and responsibilities that both men and women have during the early formation of their families
Take steps to do more than just survive but thrive and flourish
Express the cultural requirements they have for themselves and each other during this period of a child’s development to optimise the quality of their own and their children’s lives
Understand what it takes to provide a loving, safe and enriching environment for themselves and their children during the first 1000 days.
By working with service providers, program designers and policy makers we use the First 1000 Days Australia framework to:
Raise awareness of the importance of the first 1000 days and the impact this time has on lifelong health and wellbeing
Improve and target services to the earliest stage of childhood and conception, and on culture-led responses to ensure the positive impact of coordinated programs, policies and interventions
Support knowledge translation and local integration of evidence into practice
Create and support new-look workforces that include peer researchers, life coaches and cultural mentors
Support Indigenous business growth and meet State, Territory and Commonwealth targets for procurement
Focus on programs and initiatives that support men and women caregivers prior to conception, during pregnancy and post-birth
Reduce adverse stressors in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families by reforming services, practices and engagement strategies
Develop regional collective impact and increase participation in place-based strategies that are aligned to our First Nations land and language boundaries, and by so doing implement the cultural determinants of health and wellbeing.