Donna Cross

Donna Cross is a Professor with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Western Australia, and Program Head of the Education and Development Team and Director of the Early Childhood Development and Learning Collaboration at the Telethon Kids Institute. Since 1999 Donna has been awarded over $84m in research funding to conduct research to improve child and adolescent, and their parents’ and teachers’ health and wellbeing. She has led 80+ applied school and community-based research projects investigating ways to enhance pre-school children and school-age students’ wellbeing and social and emotional development and reduce anti-social behaviour.

Building Strong Brains: Core capabilities essential for young children’s health, development and learning

Communication is complex. Often our messages do not work the way we want them to. Organisations and practitioners working in early childhood often report they lack a cohesive narrative that can collectively builds public understanding of what children need to thrive. Our research found the public still do not see early childhood as a priority social issue – public demand for society and government to provide all children with what they need to thrive still needs to be strengthened. We set about finding effective “ways of explaining” complex concepts especially related to the core capabilities critical to building strong brains. This presentation will describe the core capabilities and messaging findings from this three years of research recently completed with the Frameworks Institute in Washington DC. We investigated how the Australian public think about early childhood and what communication choices are most effective to advance public thinking. We now have an evidence-based approach to communicate about early childhood in Australia and we are working with organisations to tell a powerful and memorable core story that replaces the standard ways people think about this issue. A core story translates scientific or expert knowledge to make it accessible to the public, practitioners, and policymakers. It is the overarching narrative that gives people the words and ideas to talk about and understand complex concepts. We need to make sure that children are surrounded by what they need to thrive. We also know that when we support children’s development in the early years, we increase their health and wellbeing, and the success of our communities both now and in the future.