Published in the NT Suns in march 2016. This column is aboput an initiative for linking families with educational institutions at trhe very, very beginning of childrens formative years.

It is a program gaining traction ion trhe Northern Territory.

It is also a program achieving some longevity – so it is not a ‘fly by night’, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ initiative.



The educational initiative “families as first teachers” is one that has been of benefit to Northern Territory families in our remote communities for the last 10 years. The program was designed to support families in meeting the needs of children from birth through to three years of age. It brought families with young children together, to share thoughts and ideas.

One of the significant aspects of this program, now expanding into new areas, is that it is not limited to indigenous families. Any family can apply to participate with these social and learning communities.

The program was developed to help parents understand the importance of getting children ready for school. The program offers pre-preparation in terms of their social and emotional development. This helps avoid them entering preschool as four year olds with no experience of being together in a school. Young parents are also offered the opportunity to share ideas about the care and nurture for their very young.

Regardless of pros and cons, the program worked well in preparing children for formal education in remote parts of the Territory.

The expansion of ‘Families as First Teachers’ into 10 urban schools in Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs is timely.

More and more young families are living, or moving to live in urban settings in the Territory. This makes the program one offering positive support for a growing number of people.

The most recent urban program, at Ludmilla, has had a very positive start. The school has enrolled 60 families to date and more are interested. The program isn’t zoned, meaning that it is available to families outside the Ludmilla School catchment area. This might change in time but will probably be offset by the commencement of programs in the other schools. Similarly, the Wulagi School program is growing and has become an integral element of the school community.

The early years of child development are important years, in fact the most important of all! This program is meeting a need and to date its developmental objectives have lead to success.
One of these has been education and awareness offered to young parents. ‘Families as First educators’ is taking education in a positive direction.

Schools are now places going well beyond formal education, entering into the field of developing children from very, very young ages. This broadening school role including ‘Families as First Teachers’ is with us to stay.

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