Tambellup is a small rural town in Western Australia with a much higher Aboriginal population than the national average. Notably, this town has achieved very positive results for year one children in 2007 regional Australian Early Development Index testing. In 2009 the Great Southern GP Network requested that Edith Cowan University undertake an exploratory study to discover the factors protective of children?s development in Tambellup. This article describes the subsequent research and its findings. The qualitative study interviewed both adult members of the local Aboriginal community of the Noongar people and non-Aboriginal leaders from a cross-section of organisations, services and the community to determine what made growing up in Tambellup a positive experience. There was substantial evidence of widespread trust and positive relationships in this close-knit community, where adults looked out for and supported both their own and others' children. The primary school played a key role in supporting children's development even before children started school. Good relations generally existed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents, contributing to the stability of the population and providing many role models in successful cross-cultural relationships. The results suggest that small rural communities offer significant and untapped resources for enhancing the health and wellbeing of children in the critical early years of life.

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