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Evaluation and Research

The Children’s Ground approach is underpinned by research and experience and is tracked through a 25-year longitudinal evaluation.

Extreme inequity is a global challenge. There is a widening gap of income inequality and increasing entrenched and complex disadvantage in Australia.

There is insufficient evidence for approaches to address complex inequity particularly in relation to First Nations communities.

Children’s Ground is designed to redress extreme inequity – working with communities facing the greatest exclusion and economic disadvantage. Children’s Ground is committed to building an evidence base to inform national and global practice and policy.

With a comprehensive First Nations led research and evaluation strategy, Children’s Ground aims to evidence the impact of the Children’s Ground Approach in creating change with children, families and communities and informing national systems and policy change.

A 25-year longitudinal evaluation

The Children's Ground approach is seeking to change the status for children, families and communities, services and systems. We are guided - but not limited by - global Western leading practice. Each Children’s Ground principle, integrated service platform area and systems reform is also informed by First Nations cultural knowledge systems and practices. In design, practice and evaluation, we bring the best of the old and new together. 

Through a longitudinal evaluation and strategic and community level research agendas, we are monitoring and measuring change in education, health and wellbeing, economic, social and cultural outcomes – over the short, medium and long-term.

Our evaluation has Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) approval and is guided and overseen by a national Research Advisory Group, consisting of experts in child development, health and wellbeing, family wellbeing, systems research and community-led research and development.

Community Governance, culturally responsive and strength-based
Aboriginal people have been the subjects of research and evaluation in different forms since colonisation. Almost always, this research involved collecting data from people and taking it away to be analysed, with no direct benefit for the individuals or communities involved and no feedback on the outcomes of the research.

Children’s Ground’s monitoring, evaluation and research is governed by First Nations people. It is the community who co-designs, executes, analyses and reports on the outcomes for their community.

 


 

 

Children’s Ground is guided by Participatory Action Research (PAR) as a ‘systematic investigation, with the collaboration of those affected by the issue being studied, for the purposes of education and taking action or effecting social change. PAR centres on community strengths and issues and explicitly engages those who live in the community in the research process.’[1]

Children’s Ground also recognises that traditional outcome measures relating to users are often deficit, disease and death focussed. While these indicators are important, they can undermine or fail to recognise strength-based indicators critical to shifting ultimate wellbeing when assessed on their own.

Children’s Ground defines key indicators with the community to ensure both culture and strength are embedded and recognised in progress measures and outcomes indicators.

Children’s Ground evaluation framework in action

We want to evidence the Children’s Ground Approach; we want to learn as we go, and we want to build an evidence base for transformative systems change over 25 years.

The Children’s Ground Approach is broken into five yearly strategic development plans and annual progress indicators that are tracked annually. These inform a comprehensive evaluation report every three years. Over time, we are evaluating the quality and impact of our work across outcomes for children, families and communities, as well as processes in system, service and practice reform and change.

Our evaluation framework (see below) consists of nine long-term outcomes for children, their families and the community. Each of these has short and medium-term indicators that are the building blocks of long-term change. This will allow us to report back to the community, our investors and partners, and to build an evidence base for an approach to achieving equity, inclusion and addressing extreme disadvantage over the long-term.

A high degree of innovation and responsiveness is embedded within our evaluation approaches so that evidencing the Children’s Ground Approach is shaped by each community for their children, families and local context. We draw on both Western and First Nations approaches to monitoring and evaluation.

Monitoring and Evaluation includes the following:

  • Daily monitoring against key progress indicators for each outcome for children, families and community
  • Quantitative analysis of internal and external administrative data
  • Qualitative and quantitative analysis - short and long form interviews and surveys
  • Developmental evaluation (at community and organisation level) of practice, delivery, system and environment
  • Systems evaluation - quality, integrity and standards, efficiency and effectiveness of the Children’s Ground Approach

 

Decades of evidence confirms that the greatest return on investment in social and economic terms is achieved by starting early with children (before school age) and responding to all key social and cultural determinants of health, wellbeing and life.

Our impact can only be truly understood over a generation - when the generation of children growing up with Children’s Ground are young adults and become the majority of families who have experienced positive education, health and cultural learning and wellbeing from their earliest years; when they have had a voice and agency over their own lives and have experienced lifelong inclusion and equity in education, health, social and economic life.


Our Research Advisory Group

We work with respected researchers and academics who have extensive experience conducting research and evaluation projects in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community settings. Their areas of expertise include child development, early years and primary school education, health and wellbeing, family wellbeing and community led research and development.

Find out more about our Research Advisory Group

Emerging evidence 

 Children’s Ground in Kakadu West Arnhem Final Evaluation – 2013 to 2017

Children’s Ground established ‘proof of concept’ over three years of operations in Kakadu West Arnhem. Our key findings include:

Children:

  • A new population of children aged 0-5 years who had never participated in formal early learning engaged in early years learning
  • A critical mass (75%) of children aged 0-5 years across the region engaged with formal early learning at Children’s Ground
  • 100% of children engaged with their first language and participated in cultural learning alongside their family, and from cultural educators
  • 86% of families reported an improvement in children speaking their first language
  • 100% of children who were engaged in Children’s Ground formal learning increased nutritional intake, health behaviours and health knowledge

ABS Census data supports the finding that Children’s Ground has been associated with a large rise in engagement in early childhood education in Kakadu.

Families:

  • 100% of children had family directly engaged in their learning, health and wellbeing
  • 91% of family members reported increased family engagement with children
  • Families were active in health and emotional wellbeing promotion - for themselves and their children
  • Widespread employment and retention of local Bininj (First Nations) families, with 87 local Bininj people employed, most of whom were previously long-term unemployed

    This employment outcome is significant when comparing against a national trend that has seen minimal improvement in Aboriginal employment outcomes in 10 years of Closing the Gap.

Communities:

  • 162 people were involved in approximately 170 community governance meetings throughout operations in KWA
  • Bininj cultural governance processes respected and enacted
  • 80% of families reported that Children’s Ground listened to what Bininj wanted.
  • 87% of families reported ‘more’ or ‘a lot more’ activities for families/community compared to before Children’s Ground.
  • 86% of families interviewed reported Children’s Ground as a safe place for the community.
  • Bininj reported improved individual and community safety in relation to cultural, emotional and environmental safety

Children’s Ground seeks to work with communities to create conditions for a better life experience for the current and future generations of children. Evaluation of operations in Kakadu has evidenced that over three and a half years, Children’s Ground created a new reality for a critical mass of children during the period of our operations.

Research and Development

There is an insufficient amount of rigorous research and evaluation being undertaken in Australia in the area of complex inequity and First Nations solutions. This is particularly true in relation to the long-term impact of early childhood learning for First Nations children. Researchers, services and governments in Australia continue to rely on overseas research that is decades old and conducted in vastly different contexts.

Children’s Ground will undertake and engage in research agendas and projects nested within and related to the Children’s Ground Approach and other First Nations led approaches. We will support community-led research priorities and contribute to national and international evidence bases.

The National Health Medical Research Council states that First Nations people define research benefit as “the establishment or enhancement of capabilities, opportunities or outcomes that advance the interests of First Nations peoples and that are valued by them” (NHMRC 2003).

For Children’s Ground, reforming mainstream research methods and practice in order to feature First Nations approaches and First Nations research priorities is critical to First Nations aspirations of empowerment and self-determination. Children’s Ground works with First Nations leaders and researchers to contribute to the development of new tools and thinking about what research benefit means for First Nations people and the impact of our community and strategic research work.

Research partnerships

Alongside our own research priorities, we partner with key research institutions and organisations to contribute practical evidence about how we redress complex and extreme disadvantage in Australia and globally. Our research principles guide our research agreements to ensure all work aligns with the rights of First Nations people and prioritises empowerment and self-determination.

Children’s Ground Research & Evaluation Framework  

Justice for All
Top End | Early and Primary Years Learning
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