5S The First 1000 Days


Carina O’Neill,
Federation University
Friday November 23 2018

Time: 10:00am – 10:30am

Room: Kuranda Ballroom

5S The First 1000 Days

How families navigate through early childhood services (from conception to school)



The first 1000 days of a child’s life are increasingly shown to have considerable impacts on children’s ability to grow, learn and thrive. But little is known on the experiences of parents navigating through services during this critical period, and the impact that service delivery across this period has on parent’s capacity to care for their children.

In the Australian state of Victoria, ‘Children and Youth Area Partnerships’ provide the platform to better coordinate the collaborative effort of local stakeholders to improve and reform service coordination, systems and infrastructure. This research project is part of the Central Highlands Children and Youth Area Partnership (CHCYAP) Research Collaboration, and reflects the identified needs of local stakeholders within a rural Victorian city.

Employing a user-centred design framework, this research captured the experiences of eight parents moving through early childhood health and education services from conception to school. The research mapped the points of contact (physical touch points) each parent had with services/groups from the moment they found out they were expecting a child until enrolment in primary school. A user journey was developed for each individual participant, highlighting feelings about navigating through services; emotional touch points across the range of experiences and interactions with a diverse range of services; and, overall reflections on these experiences and interactions.

Thematic analysis was employed as part of a two-phase analytic process to identify the key themes that emerged from parents’ reflections on their user journey. This presentation outlines the four key themes that emerged: (1) dissonance between expectations of childbirth and the transition to parenthood and the lived reality; (2) the continuum of support from ideal to going “above and beyond”; (3) isolating new parents through inadequate or absent post-natal information and support; and (4) the need to become experts/advocates in order to make informed choices. Direct quotations from participants will be highlighted, to best reflect lived experiences. Implications of how the insights from this detailed analysis of user journeys can best inform inclusive, supportive and engaging service design and innovation will be explored. The audience will be encouraged to reflect on how the findings from this research, and the insights of parents, might be used across sectors to ensure that no child, parent or carer is left behind during the critical period from conception to school.


Through her leadership roles Carina brings extensive knowledge about child- and youth-focused programs and the issues facing families in regional settings. Carina is passionate about ensuring there is a strong commitment to the provision of effective, place based and user centred early year’s services within rural Victoria.