Creating links to help

​A major reduction in the developmental vulnerability of young children within 10 years — that's the bold goal set by the groundbreaking Woodside Development Fund.

The fund, launched in February by chief executive officer Peter Coleman, aims to bring an innovative, collaborative and long-term approach to improving early childhood development outcomes.


Its focus is instigating projects that contribute to the education, health and well-being of children aged between 0 and 8, both in Australia and overseas. Woodside has committed $2 million a year to the fund over the next 10 years — a minimum contribution of $20 million.

A consultation process led by the UWA's Centre for Social Impact involved more than 20 government, community and academic organisations, while more than 100 stakeholders have been engaged individually.

Out of these discussions a key decision was reached: that the fund's headline target will be a significant reduction by 2025 in the developmental vulnerability of young children in communities of interest.

More than one in five children in Australia turn up to school not ready to learn and this developmental vulnerability tends to be compounded throughout an individual's life.

Woodside recognises that leading practice work already is being done in the field of early childhood development and that the fund's efforts will be maximised by complementing this work and supporting collaboration rather than funding additional programs or service delivery.

It aims to achieve this by:

  • maximising impact through early investment in building sectoral capabilities in both collaboration and measurement;
  • supporting community-led collaborations to make community-wide change; and
  • building dialogue at both state and national levels and forums to complement the two investments and support sustainable change.

"We know that by working collaboratively with governments, communities, the not-for-profit sector and other funders, we will make a significant improvement to the future of young people in our communities," says Mia d'Adhemar, community relations adviser, corporate relations.

"Increasingly we are seeing that the key to significant population-level change is a transformation of the way the system works collectively, rather than funding individual programs or streams of work."

Mia notes that there is also extensive knowledge proving the lasting benefits of early childhood development.

"If we are serious about making a positive impact in the capability and capacity of our communities, no matter where they are, then early childhood development is the key," she says.

The fund also aims to increase impact by leveraging additional funding and in-kind resources from other sources.

One example of maximising the synergies generated by collaboration is the ten20 Foundation based in Melbourne which has committed $10 million to reducing childhood vulnerability in 20 Australian communities. The foundation has invited Woodside to co-convene Opportunity Child.

Opportunity Child will be a national leadership body with the primary objective to build capacity, lead performance outcomes and advocate to reduce childhood vulnerability in Australia over the next decade.

In addition, Woodside is supporting the Western Australian Council of Social Service and the Western Australian Partnership Forum to develop a collaborative effort on early childhood development in Cockburn and Kwinana.

And the company is undertaking due diligence on an early childhood project in conjunction with Save the Children to implement family and child learning programs with various communities on the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley.

"By focusing on giving children and their families access to the right support, facilities, programs and educational opportunities, we know that we are laying the foundations for future generations to come," Mia says.

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Ainslie Bourne Woodside 0 Replies
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