Best Start is an early years initiative to support families and caregivers to provide the best possible environment, experiences and care for children from birth to age eight.
The program focuses on children experiencing vulnerability and all Aboriginal children.
Best Start partnerships use local data and community knowledge to identify those who are experiencing vulnerability at their sites.
Communities and service providers collaborate to address issues as they are experienced at a neighbourhood or regional level. This localised, targeted way of finding solutions to problems faced by families has been shown to be extremely effective.
Efforts are focused on boosting children's participation in the programs such as kindergarten and maternal and child health (MCH) services. The program also puts in place prevention strategies, such as providing referral pathways when targeted supports are required.
There are 30 Best Start project sites across Victoria, including six sites focusing specifically on working with Aboriginal communities. Local partnerships are the cornerstone of each project site.
The primary outcomes for Best Start are:
• Children engage and participate in early childhood education (kindergarten and supported playgroups)
• Children and families actively engage with MCH services, attending key ages and stages visits.
The South Coast Best Start incorporates both the Bass Coast and South Gippsland Shire areas. There is a South Coast Best Start Governance group which meets quarterly to discuss changes in relevant data and work towards progress outcomes.
The focus of the Best Start Governance Group can change yearly based on Victorian research and data related to the early years combined with local data.
South Coast Best Start also facilitates the South Coast Early Years Network. This network brings together services across both Bass Coast and South Gippsland who work with children in the early years.
This network meets bi-monthly either by zoom or face to face. There is also a South Gippsland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Years Network facilitated by Best Start which also meets bi-monthly. These meetings are usually held in Leongatha face-to-face when possible.
If you are interested in being part of the networks or have any Best Start questions, please do not hesitate to contact South Coast Best Start Facilitator, Phoebe Ruffin via email: email@example.com