Summary

Families play a critical role in their children’s development and learning. A large body of research provides strong
evidence that parents and the home environment are the most influential forces in shaping children’s early
learning. The responsiveness of parents to their children, and the manner in which parents talk with and teach
their children are important determinants of children’s later wellbeing and development (Landry et al. 2001;
Osofsky & Thompson 2000).

Shonkoff and Phillips (2000:226) state that ‘parenting’ is a term used to ‘capture the focused and differentiated
relationship that a young child has with the adult (or adults) who is (are) most emotionally invested in and
consistently available to him or her’. They argue that who fulfils this role is far less important than the quality of
the relationship she or he establishes with the child.

For Indigenous communities, support for parents in their parenting role has a different context from
non-Indigenous communities. The responsibility for child rearing and teaching children has traditionally been
through an extended family, kin and community and is seen as very much still tied to this cultural norm, even
when families and children face isolation from their own Indigenous communities (SNAICC 2004).

In this resource sheet, we examine what we know about programs for Australian Indigenous families that
effectively support parenting in the early years. This is not a systematic review of all programs; instead, we
present briefly on the evidence for parenting programs generally and then focus specifically on the evidence for
such parenting programs in helping Indigenous families.