Today is National Close the Gap Day, a campaign for Indigenous Health Equality led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and supported by mainstream health and advocacy organisations from around the country.
Royal Far West is proud to be helping to close the gap in developmental health services for children in rural and remote areas, many of whom are Aboriginal. For the past five years, we have been working with the remote Fitzroy Valley community in the West Kimberley region to increase services and support for children with complex needs. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data shows 85% of children from the Fitzroy Valley as developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains and 68% as vulnerable on two or more domains. Nearly 60% of children were reported as developmentally vulnerable in the area of communication and cognition. This is almost ten times the national average of 6.8%.
The program works with children aged 3 -12 years, the vast majority of them Aboriginal. Through this model, children with speech/language and behaviour/regulation issues are receiving regular, direct therapy for the first time and teachers report greatly increased confidence in working with children with complex trauma based developmental challenges. Whilst the pilot has been relatively small, it has demonstrated that with community leadership and the right engagement model, telehealth is an effective way of improving access and outcomes for developmentally vulnerable children in remote schools.
Royal Far West will continue to work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver health and developmental care to those in rural and remote communities and we are committed to helping close the gap.
Read our Stories of the Invisible Children Report which put forward several recommendations to tackle the growing developmental challenges facing Australian children and examines the lived experiences of children, teachers and community members from rural towns across NSW between 2017 and 2018.