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This paper, and the work of the Strong Foundations: Getting it Right in the First Thousand Days Partnership in general, is designed to bring a new level of rigour to policy setting and investments in Australia’s children and young people, most particularly, by focusing not just on effectiveness for the child, but value for the community as a whole.

There are many challenges faced by Australians of all ages, including our children. Some, for example, those with disability, those living in jobless homes and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, face additional, deep and persistent challenges. Our research tells us many of these obstacles will negatively impact the child for the rest of their lives and that investment is needed now to address this.

As such, there are many urgent calls upon government and upon the taxpayer. There are also many solutions being put forward as to how to help ensure more young Australians get the opportunities they need to reach their potential and live happy, productive lives.

On behalf of every community, its government must therefore constantly struggle with the age-old problem of applying limited resources to unlimited problems and doing so via the most effective means.

This paper seeks to make this challenge less daunting by providing examples of investments that research shows have a positive impact on children and which economics tells us will provide a return to our community into the future.

This paper sets out the costs to the community, the family and the child of living in unstable housing and smoking during pregnancy. It applies research that shows us that when these issues are addressed there is a positive impact for the child today, and throughout life. Finally, it provides robust economic modelling that assures the taxpayer, and therefore the government of the day, that money invested in effectively addressing these issues is a wise investment in our community, by our community.

Although in this paper we take this approach to just two factors influencing childhood wellbeing, it will be the template for further work by our partnership and we hope, help inform the work of other organisations seeking to better the lives and prospects of Australia’s children.

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