About United Way Australia
United Way work collaboratively with our partners and the community to improve early childhood outcomes and school-to-work transitions. One-in-five Australian children start school developmentally vulnerable, while in some disadvantaged communities this can be as many as one-in-three. United Way understands the importance of improving early childhood outcomes for vulnerable children.
United Way and Future Generation Australia
Generous support from Future Generation Australia has helped United Way to reach more than 10,000 of the youngest members of our society in over 60 communities across NSW, VIC, QLD, SA and WA over the past five years. Through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program free monthly books are delivered to the child’s home, building critical early learning skills alongside literacy resources for parents and carers, and community reading events and workshops. Children who have a poor foundation or are behind in their language or reading capabilities are more likely to lag behind their peers, drop out of high school and not progress to tertiary education. The act of reading a storybook aloud to a child has been referred to as the single-most important thing adults can do to promote the emergent literacy skills of young children.
Currently, the funding from Future Generation Australia is helping United Way support 1,300 families enrolled in the Imagination Library program. Follow up surveys show that 84% of parents and carers have found that the books and learning resources have made a positive difference to their children’s reading habits.
What is your driving motivation in your current role?
We are very fortunate to live in Australia; to have access to universal healthcare, a solid economy with low unemployment and a democracy in which we can exercise our voice. However, we undervalue the importance of early education. Every child deserves the best start in life and governments must play their part in the provision of quality early education, and parents and carers need to help our children be ready for school. Sadly in many cases, children who start school unprepared never catch-up and fail to take advantage of the great learning opportunities we have in Australia. My passion and mission is to assist communities to ensure their children start school well.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
I often research what is happening around the world in relation to access to quality education, with particular interest in early literacy. Shared reading between parent and child makes a big difference and the data shows that having books in the home are important. The first few years of childhood provide a key window of opportunity to support the development of cognitive, creative, emotional, literacy and language skills needed for future success in education, work and life. The most challenging part of my role is visiting the disadvantaged communities where local children have been denied this opportunity and are now facing significant headwinds in their lives.
What does it mean to have the support of Future Generation Australia?
As the saying goes ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Future Generation Australia’s fund managers, service providers and shareholders play a critical role in providing the resources for parents and carers to be the enablers. Future Generation Australia funding changes the child’s narrative from ‘starting behind and staying behind’, to ‘thriving in life’. Working together, we are all making a difference.