A CULTURALLY integrated early years program aims to help Ballarat's growing Indigenous community to embrace education, Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative's chief says.
The Victorian government on Tuesday boosted BADAC's new kindergarten project in Sebastopol by $900,000, adding to the organisation's $1.15 million community investment.
BADAC chief executive officer Karen Heap said plans have been underway for awhile to meet growing community needs and this would help give Aboriginal children a better start to their schooling.
While BADAC has long run a playgroup program for the youngster community members, culturally focused three and four-year-old kindergarten programs offer a safe space to transition into prep.
"Kinder and early years is important for all children, but especially for Aboriginal children to make a good start," Ms Heap said.
"We're helping them get the best start they can to prep. If you don't have the best start to school you keep falling further and further behind. We need to make sure Aboriginal children are engaged from the start to keep closing the gap."
We need to make sure Aboriginal children are engaged from the start to keep closing the gap.Karen Heap, Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative chief
Yirram Burron, meaning morning children, will deliver general curriculum embedded with cultural awareness, play and art.
Ms Heap said other Victorian regional cities had dedicated Indigenous early years programs but BADAC was creating Yirram Burron specifically on community needs and perspectives.
She said about 50 per cent of Aboriginal people were under the age of 24, and 25 per cent were under nine years old. This showed an increasing number of Aboriginal children being born and BADAC wanted to ensure the right supports were in place.
Ms Heap said the government's investment reinforced a strong stance on self-determination and a good place for Aboriginal children to build confidence. She said she looked forward to the day when Aboriginal doctors would work at BADAC, having enjoyed a culturally safe start to their education at kindergarten.
Buninyong MP Michaela Settle said there was a clear need for the kindergarten in Ballarat where Aboriginal culture was the fastest growing demographic.
"It makes sense to invest in a stand-alone BADAC-run kinder which will link Aboriginal children to both their culture and education," Ms Settle said.
"Research shows that this is the best way to keep engagement in education and build pride and resilience for the community...There is no better investment we can make as a community than to ensure all our kids are school-ready and fully equipped to get the best start in life."
Yirram Burron is expected to open in 2022.