Shining a light on education outcomes for rural children

  • Three team members in front of Clermont school sign
  • Female team member with young kindergarten child
  • Female team member with young kindergarten child

Clermont Kindy and Day Care Centre

By
Royal Far West
Issue
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Clermont in Central Western Queensland is a hub for the regions’ large coal mines and cattle stations. People settle there for work and affordable homes with plenty of fresh air and freedom.  The town boasts a long day care centre, a community kindy (pre-school), two primary schools and a 7-10 High School. Emerald is over 100km away, with schooling options to year 12, a district hospital, and a range of NGO and private allied health service providers operating on either a permanent or fly-in, fly-out staff basis. 

Royal Far West (RFW) began providing speech-communication and motor skills screening followed by teletherapy services for the Clermont Kindy and Day Care centre in 2018, funded by Glencore Australia. The program has grown to support more children, providing speech and occupational therapy via telehealth, and psychology services.  The community-intensive weeks where the allied health team work in person with the children and their families and support early childhood staff with both formal and informal professional development and learning opportunities are proving effective. 

RFW has a commitment to building child development expertise and exploring innovative approaches to tackle disadvantage.  Closing the health equity gap for rural and remote children, drives the work. The focus in 2023 was to respond to the emerging trends of increased mental health post COVID, increased complexity of children’s challenges and the cumulative impacts of natural disasters on country children and families.

Late in 2022, the Australian Government Emerging Priorities Pilot grant enabled individual, group and universal-impact services to be delivered at scale to Clermont State School across the 2023 academic year. 

RFW’s matrix of funders and community connections supports a multidisciplinary team, building a common community understanding and language around children’s development, and creating a consistent scaffold within which early childhood and primary school staff and parents can support children within their care. 

Almost 50 early childhood and primary school staff have benefitted from mentoring support and professional development in 2023. Approximately 30 children received one-to-one supports including assessment and therapeutic assistance.  

“The number of psychology assessments was amazing – some kids had been on waitlists for years -- it has opened up pathways for the children and funding to support them for the parents, and us too.” (school principal) .  

Our vision for the future 

Mental health services for children in rural and remote communities is an ongoing area of great unmet need. Cascading disasters of drought, bushfires, floods and COVID-19 have caused heightened and recurrent stress and distress in young children and their families and is typically presenting in younger children with more complex needs. RFW saw a significant increase in the number of children, families and educators they supported in 2023. They have also increased our reach and are delivering services in Victoria for the first time. 

RFW has a vision to expand its’ Child and Family Service to reach more children, particularly those whose family situation means a trip to the RFW’s Manly Centre might not be possible. They are working with NSW Health to create a business case for this expansion.  

Jacqueline Emery, CEO at RFW summed up the vision for 2024 by saying “We are poised to build on this year’s work. I think it is also important to acknowledge the passion and commitment of the families we support – these are incredibly resilient and determined families who want the best start in life for their children.  We are excited and looking forward to reaching even more communities and increasing country children’s access to high-quality allied health services in rural and remote Australia”. 

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