8 children holding hands

A new network has been created to support and advocate for community hubs, a wraparound care service, that is our “best chance” at improving the overall health and well-being of families in Australia.

The National Child and Family Hubs Network, a multidisciplinary expert group that brings together research institutes, universities, community organisations, philanthropy and government departments was launched today at Karitane, a hub in Sydney, by Early Childhood Education and Youth Minister Dr Anne Aly.

The network, including Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), aims to combine each members current efforts in research, training, communication and advocacy work across the integrated Child and Family Hub model. These models span early childhood and primary school education, healthcare and Aboriginal and non-government organisation services.

With more than 460 already established across Australia, the hubs integrate health, education and social care needs for families from birth to 12 years. Children from socio-economic disadvantage stand to gain the most from the hubs, which have been informed by key research including recommendations from The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

MCRI Professor Harriet Hiscock said across the country there was increasing interest in Child and Family Hubs.

“The network has been designed to leverage this interest and create an opportunity for collaborative learning and sustainable and effective practice,” she said. Prior to the establishment of the network, there was no co-ordinated approach to implementing and evaluating integrated community-based hubs through evidence-based practice.

“It will provide opportunities for sharing and strengthening research and other resources, problem-solving, developing sustainable funding models and advocating for ongoing support.”

Professor Hiscock said the hubs played a key role in preventing health, education, social and developmental problems as well as boosting social connections and well-being for families.

“Early, targeted support systems are associated with improved school readiness and parental knowledge and confidence and we hope these can be strengthened under this new network,” she said.

“The network will become a go-to trusted source of evidence of what works and what doesn’t and help fill some gaps in the current evidence.”

MCRI Professor Sharon Goldfeld, who is the network chair, said the hubs were of great benefit to the health and development of disadvantaged children.

Sharon Goldfeld

Image: National Child and Family Hubs Network Chair and MCRI Professor Sharon Goldfeld speaking at the launch

“These hubs are the best chance we have, at this point in time, to drive excellent and equitable service delivery for children in Australia,” she said.

“The Network emerged out of the idea that there were opportunities to bring together the learnings from hubs all over Australia to ensure each can be of the greatest quality and sustained over time. What’s great about the hubs are that they bring all services together so families can go through a non-stigmatising front door to have their needs met.”

May, a mum attending the Karitane hub with her toddler Elliot, said; “It was so much more in-depth and more valuable than I thought. The hub has given me confidence things will be okay, that I have a certain set of skills to fall back on. It is invaluable what it has done for our family, and I really hope other families can benefit from it as well.”

Professor Hiscock said the creation of the network also built on MCRI’s mission to acknowledge broader social determinants of health and provide real-world solutions to social inequity.

“We are one step closer to ensuring young Australian children have the best possible start and have equitable access to quality services and supports,” she said.

“These protective services are really important in assisting children with their transition to school, as well as supporting and connecting families, promoting positive parenting and providing major safeguards for children’s development.”

Minister Dr Anne Aly

Image: Early Childhood Education and Youth Minister Dr Anne Aly at the National Child and Family Hubs Network launch

The National Child and Family Hubs Network is supported by the Centre for Community Child Health, The University of Sydney, Telethon Kids Institute, ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families Across the Life Course, National Children’s Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, Beyond Blue, Children’s Health Queensland, University of New South Wales, Sydney Local Health District, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Social Ventures Australia, University of Tasmania, Karitane (NSW), Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care and Our Place.

The network has been funded by the Ian Potter Foundation.