This paper provides a review of prevention and early intervention research literature that is focused on improving outcomes for Australian Indigenous children in the early childhood years. For the purposes of this paper, early childhood is defined as the years from conception to school entry. The included literature was drawn from 3 key areas of early childhood research: parenting, early childhood education, and early childhood health.
One aim of this paper is to bring together up-to-date information about the range of evaluated intervention programs for Indigenous children and their families, where the information is targeted at the early childhood years. A second aim is to review research on the programs’ effectiveness in bringing about positive change in the lives of Indigenous children and their parents. The third and primary aim of the paper is to assess the quality of published or publicly available research and evaluation of early intervention programs for Indigenous children and families in Australia: the intent is to assist practitioners and policy makers in their choice of intervention programs for use in Indigenous communities.
In doing so, the paper omits discussion of programs that have not yet been evaluated or whose evaluations are not publicly available. Such programs may well be as effective, or even more effective, than those reviewed here. It also needs to be kept in mind that using the quality of research design as a primary criterion for program adoption can be problematic in Australia, where research funding is difficult to obtain and often inadequate to conduct the randomised controlled trials and longitudinal research designs that are the ‘gold standard’ for a high-quality evidence base.