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ANZSOG working to develop better systems leadership to help support children

6 May 2021

News and media


Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow


ANZSOG has joined leaders from government, non-government, First Nations organisations and corporate agencies as part of a project to unlock new and better ways of getting agencies to work together to improve support for children and young people across Australia.

In 2020, Every Child, a non-government network of 80 organisations, teamed-up with ANZSOG to undertake the innovative Systems Leadership for Child and Youth Well-Being Project. The joint project received written endorsement from the Prime Minister and other State and Territory leaders.

Professor Ken Smith, ANZSOG Dean and CEO, said ANZSOG had signed up to this systems leadership project as “ANZSOG is promoting excellence and innovation in public administration. It is important that public sector leaders reimagine their roles and their responses to complex national issues —the vulnerability that 20 per cent of Australian children endure is one of those persistent challenges.”

Leith Sterling, Co-Chair of Every Child said that, “the unique focus of this collaboration between Every Child and ANZSOG is to find ways for health, housing, early years learning and care, schools, and all support systems to work better together.

“Services are fragmented, and often not readily available to children and young people – particularly if they live outside of the big cities. The challenge is that 20 per cent of children in Australia do not start school ready to learn —many continue to fall behind.”

Research from organisations including the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) showed that two actions that can make a huge difference are:

‘stacking’ support in the early years for children and families and sustaining the support to those who need it most.
working together across agencies to provide seamless, less fragmented support to children, young people, and families.

Work done by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) and others, has found that there are six key domains of wellbeing that must be met for children and young people to do well – Loved and Safe, Healthy, Participating, Positive Sense of Identity & Culture, Material Basics and Learning.

“The need to collaborate across these six domains was raised with leaders in the project,” Ms Sterling said.

The Stage One report of the Every Child project was distributed in April, and is also available from the Every Child website.

Through this first stage of the project the team undertook three main actions:

Engaged individually with over 80 leaders across systems, across sectors and across jurisdictions to discuss opportunities for improving systems leadership and importantly improving life outcomes for children, young people and their families.
Reviewed a wide body of material on systems change and leadership, relevant to advancing child and youth development.
Hosted over 60 leaders through a Leaders Briefing, held on February 3, to test findings and engage leaders in systems networks in their fields of influence.

“The stand-out key message in the report is that all children can start school ready to learn and leave school ready for life and work, with concerted leadership, early support to children and families, and much better integrated support systems,” Ms Sterling said.

The elements essential for advancing systems leadership that have emerged in this project are:

Concerted systems leadership
Smarter investment
Engaged public and communities
Workforce capability to work in systems approaches
Integrated delivery of services
Putting data, evidence and learning to work

Ms Sterling said the authority and expertise of ANZSOG and the project team had helped to attract the active participation of senior executives from Education, Health, Treasury and other agencies who have a role in better integrating and advancing child and youth well-being in Australia and New Zealand.

In the Stage Two of the project, the team will consider three main actions:

Share learning and build networks of public service leaders and non-government leaders to promote better integrated support systems for children and young people.
Identify practical systems leadership and reform opportunities that can be provided to governments and the National Cabinet.
Seek feedback on the proposal for a National Child and Well-Being strategy or nation-building commitment – what it might comprise of, and how it can enable all children start school ready to learn and leave school ready for life and work.

The project team will continue to brief leaders and networks across Australia. The team has invited interest in forming co-design and action learning groups around key propositions and opportunities, including from Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander leaders and those representing marginalised groups.

A version of this article first appeared on the Pro Bono website.

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