Research and advocacy

Early Start Research

Early Start Research is a research strength of the University of Wollongong and a part of the Early Start initiative. We work with the Abbott Foundation, the World Health Organization, NSW Health, Goodstart Early Learning, the Australian Government Departments of Health and Education, ACECQA, and various other organisations collaborating on research into overcoming disadvantage and effecting real social change.

Anita Kumar: Early Start is an entity of the University of Wollongong dedicated to improving outcomes for young children and their families, we especially focus on improving outcomes for children who are living in regional and remote communities.

Tony Okely: Early Starts' research is important because it addresses some of the key problems that we see around young children, it gives them the best start to life with a particular interest in health, learning and development 

Anita Kumar: everything that Early Start does we actually measure our outcomes how we actually have an impact on our community and on the children.

Tony Okely: One of the flagship projects from our Play, pedagogy and curriculum research theme has to do with children designing appropriate apps for themselves to be able to use

Maria Clara Rivera: this research can empower children and develop them into adults who have a sense of self, and the knowledge that they can influence digital play or different aspects of their life, whether it's an adequate nutrition freedom for violence or whatever form children's play may take in the future.

Anita Kumar: our researchers work in partnership with the World Health Organization in developing physical health guidelines for young children around food, movement, screen time.

Tony Okely: We also have an Early Start Discovery Space in which we have over 150,000 visits per year, so it gives us the opportunity to be able to design experiences that will maximize the benefits for children's learning, and it also allows us to work with the community around research, that will help improve children's learning and development.

Anita Kumar: We're quite proud of what early start has achieved in this short period anytime they manage to engage with the community, being able to have our research translate into practice and being able to capture that we are making an impact on children's outcome.

Tony Okely: What the world looks like in 20 years is children thriving and being able to see every child reach their potential

A focus on promoting learning, development and health for all children

Since its creation in 2014 as one of the University of Wollongong’s research strengths, Early Start Research has been working to overcome disadvantage and impact the lives of children, youth, and families through its world class research.

Early Start's Research primary business is to conduct world class, evidence-based research that drives government policy, and assists industry professionals and the broader public in making informed educational decisions for policy and practice.

Early Start Research members are internationally recognised for their expertise in education, cognition, health, and physical activity.

Impacting policy and practice

Early Start Research is focused on impacting policy and practice, not only in the communities with which our researchers work, but nationally and internationally. Early Start Research has recently worked to impact policy and practice through:

  • Involvement in the development of the World Health Organization guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep for children under 5 years of age; and leading the development of the World Health Organization global standards for healthy eating and movement behaviours in the early years.
  • Development and validation of the Early Years Toolbox, a collection of game-like iPad-based assessments that provide early childhood educators and researchers with information about children’s progress in foundational areas of learning and development. The EYT assessments have been accessed by more than 11,000 users, across more than 50 countries and 5 continents, and have now been translated into more than a dozen languages. In the Australian context, the EYT is currently being piloted by Australia’s largest early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider and by education providers in highly disadvantaged and regional/remote areas.
  • Leading an international study of movement behaviours in the early years, bringing together over 35 low, middle, and high income countries across the globe.
  • Exploration of the 5 C’s (collaboration, creativity, confidence, can-do attitude, and curiosity) among children attending the Early Start Discovery Space.
  • Development of partnerships and collaborations with leading researchers and industry experts.
  • Partnering with Early Education and Care Centres and organisations throughout NSW (Early Start Engagement Centres, Good Start Early Learning, NSW Department of Education) and Victoria (Our Place) to engage in collaborative research and support educators professional development and influence child outcomes.

2 adults looking at ipad

Children playing at Early Start's Discovery Space