Children’s Ground: A model that could end inter-generational poverty in Australia

Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, proudly presents

Rosemary Addis
Social Innovation Strategist, Social Innovation
Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

Jane Vadiveloo
CEO, Children's Ground

Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Held at Monash University Law Chambers, 555 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne


Watch the full video of the event on our YouTube channel


Watch Jane Vadiveloo discuss her organisation Children's Ground in this 5 minute Q&A



Audio recording of presentation


Report by Claerwen O'Hara

Children's Ground is an innovative program that works with children in communities that are devastated by intergenerational poverty and inequity. While the model has been inspired and reinforced by the wisdom and teaching of Indigenous people, it has application in any community experiencing disadvantage. The first of its kind in Australia, it aims to tackle entrenched disadvantage through a long-term, holistic and community-based model that is supported by a robust global evidence base. The first Children's Ground community is being established with the Mirarr people in West Arnhem, where the organisation has been working with the community to develop a platform for well-being, learning and development, promoting local agency through community involvement.

On 19 March 2013, the unique model underpinning the work of Children's Ground was presented to an enthusiastic crowd at the Monash University Law Chambers by both Rosemary Addis, Social Innovation Strategist from the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), and Jane Vadiveloo, CEO of Children's Ground.

Addis set the scene with a discussion of the novel partnership between the Federal Government and Children's Ground, in which the government incubated the development and now provides funding and support, but doesn't control the project. With all parties understanding that the initiative needed to have a measure of independence from government, the approach has instead been to "create space" for such a model to develop. Children's Ground is based on a collective investment model in which funding comes from a range of sources. For example, the West Arnhem Children's Ground is to be half-funded by the community itself through the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation. This investment model serves to both expand the organisation's support network and ensure its independence and flexibility.

Jane Vadiveloo gave a comprehensive explanation of Children's Ground's operations. Vadiveloo is clearly a perfect fit for her role as CEO, as evidenced by her twenty years of experience working with communities experiencing disadvantage and trauma. In particular, she has spent many years working closely with Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

Vadiveloo began by discussing the need for a new approach to intergenerational poverty. Despite significant economic growth, the gap between the welfare of the majority of Australian children and those 20% of children who are experiencing the greatest disadvantage is growing. Moreover, current government and non-government programs and services have proven to be largely ineffective in creating any long-term change, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children whose families are caught in an entrenched cycle of poverty. Vadiveloo suggested that dispersed funding is the cause of this ineffectiveness, with funding going to a range of different initiatives rather than a single comprehensive intervention, coupled with a tendency for policies and programs to only have a short-term focus. It can also be attributed to a lack of respect for and understanding of local culture, a lack of services in local language and a failure to adequately involve communities in the planning and delivery of these programs.

Children's Ground intends to overcome these issues through eight key principles: start early; stay for the long haul; work with enough families to achieve a critical mass; often all year round; deliver the whole, not the bits; innovation/use new ways; expect and deliver the best; and be led by child, family and community.

Children's Ground embeds feedback from this local engagement that the community want an education system that provides skills to access the global world, but that also allows their children to understand their land, language and culture, to be ‘strong both ways'. Accordingly, Children's Ground has developed such an integrated learning model.

Children's Ground puts these principles into practice through a suite of services for children and young people from 0-24 years, their families and their communities. These services focus on learning, well being and development and range from health-care and development to education. Many of these can be accessed in the multigenerational community centre that sits at the core of the program, along with other social and cultural events. The project includes out-reach programs and services as well so as to ensure accessibility for all.

 Children's Ground is both long-term in its vision, with a minimum 25 year program, and culturally sensitive, for example, by providing many of its services in the local language. Its approach is based on a range of research that draws on both global evidence and discussions with the local community about what they want from Children's Ground. Furthermore, to prevent this research-based method from becoming stale, Children's Ground's model provides for a research director to frequently re-evaluate the program, engaging directly with the community.

To further promote the agency of the community and promote economic development and sustainability, members of the local community are employed by Children's Ground as designers, researchers and users.

Although there is still a long way to go and undoubtedly many challenges to be faced, Vadiveloo's presentation provided the audience with optimism about the future of disadvantaged children in this country. Children's Ground represents a powerful practical example of an innovative and potentially very successful approach to eradicating intergenerational poverty

Check out these photos from the event on our Facebook page.


Children's Ground has been established to model a new approach to working with communities experiencing the greatest disadvantage in Australia and globally. Extensive efforts by many people and agencies have failed to overcome a crisis faced by many communities in particular indigenous communities.

Children's Ground offers an ambitious yet common sense approach for change. It has been incubated through a unique partnership between government and community.

rosemary addis

Rosemary Addis works at the forefront of new thinking, policy and markets to achieve clear social and economic value.  She has a strong track record as a leading strategic thinker who delivers outcomes with creativity rigour; with a unique capacity to find practical solutions to complex problems in dynamic, sensitive environments.  Rosemary has over 20 years' track record providing insight into complex systems and brokering innovative solutions that cross sectoral boundaries to create long term positive impact.

In her current role as Social Innovation Strategist for the Australian Department of Education Employment & Workplace Relations, she leads a small entrepreneurial team that has made a pioneering contribution to the field of social investment, particularly "impact investments" that intentionally seek strong social and cultural outcomes as well as financial return.  Flagship projects include seed funding the Social Enterprise Development and Investment Funds (SEDIF), the first three social investment funds of their kind in Australia supporting social enterprises to increase the impact of their work in the community and thought leadership in ways of directing capital to communities that need it most to create sustainable, quality jobs.  The team also leads work to achieve breakthrough solutions to some of the most challenging social and policy issues.

Rosemary's current work builds on a successful international legal career including as a partner of Allens Arthur Robinson (now Allens-Linklaters), named in Chambers Global: The World's Leading Lawyers in successive years.  She has held senior executive roles at the Victorian Department of Premier  & Cabinet and The Smith Family and ran her own consultancy, LangfordAddis.

Rosemary is a member of the NSW Government Social Investment Expert Advisory Group and international advisory committees for The Impact Investor project and international Impact Investing Policy Collaborative, she is also a Director of the UN Secretariat for the Principles for Social Investment and Chair of the Reference Committee for arts incubator at Deakin University.  Rosemary is an experienced director, has a first class honours degree in Law, the New York Bar and is accredited internationally as a broker of cross sector partnerships.

Jane Vadiveloo

Jane Vadiveloo is Children's Ground founding CEO. Jane has a Masters in Forensic Psychology and a 20 year history leading reform and services provision in communities experiencing extreme disadvantage and trauma.

Jane moved to the NT 15 years ago and has worked with children and young people at risk, people living with mental illness, Vietnam veterans, and in the forensic setting with prisoners. Jane has a long history working with Indigenous people and communities, including the Town Camps in Alice Springs, where she worked closely with Arrernte people and with them founded Akeyulerre, one of the first organisations based on Indigenous knowledge systems in the area of health and wellbeing. Jane has consulted to Virgin Unite (the international philanthropic arm of the Virgin Group), the NT and Federal Governments, and Aboriginal Organisations in the NT. Jane is currently on the board of the Northern Territory Council of Social Services and the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law. Jane's greatest inspiration is the strength and vision of people she works with and the importance of amplifying the voice of local people.

Jane is leading the overall design and development of the Children's Ground community engagement process, learning platforms, services and programs for each critical phase of delivery, and the research and evaluation methodology.