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Towards an integrated model for child and family services in central Australia

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An innovative model for the delivery of child and family services

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress is a large Aboriginal community-controlled health service based in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Since the 1970s, Congress has developed a comprehensive model of primary health care delivering evidence-based services on a foundation of cultural appropriateness.

In recent years, the community-elected Congress Board has focused on improving the developmental outcomes of Aboriginal children. This has led to the development of an innovative model for the delivery of child and family services, based on the belief that the best way to “close the gap” is to make sure it is not created in the first place.

Early childhood development

It is well established that social and environmental influences in early childhood shape health and wellbeing outcomes across the life course. Adverse childhood experiences are correlated with a wide range of physical health problems and with increased levels of depression, suicide attempts, sexually transmitted infections, smoking and alcoholism.1

The pathways for these effects are complex; however, we know that during the first few years of life, the interactions between genetics, environment and experience have a dramatic impact on brain development. During this critical period, children need stimulation…