"Indigenous culture key in first Footprints in Time"

Media Release 20/10/2009
The Hon Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

The importance of maintaining strong links to Indigenous culture is a key finding of wave one of a landmark longitudinal study of Indigenous children – Footprints in Time.

More than two thirds of parents had taken their child to an Indigenous cultural event, ceremony or sorry business.

Around 44 per cent had taught their child traditional arts like painting, dance, singing and making ceremonial dress. And more than 40 per cent had taught their child traditional practices like collecting food or hunting.

Footprints in Time is tracking the long-term development of 1,687 children and will give researchers the capacity to look in depth at the early childhood experiences of Indigenous children and how these experiences influence their future.

The study measures footprints of Indigenous children aged between six months and five years from 11 sites across Australia – along with their parents and carers. The families will be interviewed yearly over at least four years.

Parents surveyed said they wanted their children to receive a good education and have the opportunity for a good career as well as being healthy, happy, independent and successful.

In wave one, nearly half of the parents had experienced 3 to 6 major life events in the past year, with the most commonly reported events being pregnancy or giving birth, a death of a close family member or friend and housing problems.

Many more parents got a job or returned to study than those who lost a job. And a significant number also reported alcohol and drug problems; problems with the police and the law; or being “humbugged” for money.

While almost all parents (97 per cent) rated their children’s health as either excellent, very good or good, the data also reveals ear problems (20 per cent), chest infections (15 per cent), asthma (13 per cent) and eczema (11 per cent) are quite common.

Footprints in Time is a key part of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Early Childhood package to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

It has been designed in consultation with Indigenous stakeholders including individuals and communities, academics, health professionals and community service providers.

The study includes children from diverse locations, including: Darwin, Galawinku, Katherine, Alice Springs, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Broome, Greater Shepparton, the NSW South Coast, Greater Western Sydney, Dubbo, Mount Isa, Mornington Island, Doomadgee, Ipswich, Logan, Inala, Torres Strait Islands and Northern Peninsula Area and Adelaide.

Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children: Key Summary Report from Wave 1
http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/indigenous/pubs/families/lsic/wave_1/Pages/default.aspx