The Children’s Ground approach is underpinned by research and experience and is tracked through a 25-year longitudinal evaluation

With a comprehensive Research & Evaluation Framework, Children’s Ground aims to evidence the impact of the Children’s Ground Approach in creating change with children, families and communities and informing national systems and policy change.


A 25-Year Longitudinal Evaluation

Through a longitudinal evaluation and strategic and community level research agendas, we are monitoring and measuring change in education, health and wellbeing, economic, social and cultural outcomes – over the short, medium and long-term.

Our evaluation has Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) approval and is guided and overseen by a national Research Advisory Group, consisting of experts in child development, health and wellbeing, family wellbeing, systems research and community-led research and development.

Community Governance, culturally responsive and strength-based

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been the subjects of research and evaluation in different forms since colonisation. Almost always, this research involved collecting data from people and taking it away to be analysed, with no direct benefit for the individuals or communities involved and no feedback on the outcomes of the research.

Children’s Ground’s monitoring, evaluation and research is governed by First Nations people. It is the community that co-designs, executes, analyses and reports on the outcomes for their community.

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Children’s Ground’s Research & Evaluation Framework

Children’s Ground is guided by Participatory Action Research (PAR): ‘a systematic investigation, with the collaboration of those affected by the issue being studied, for the purposes of education and taking action or effecting social change. PAR centres on community strengths and issues and explicitly engages those who live in the community in the research process.’

However, traditional outcome measures relating to users are often focused on deficit, disease and death. While these indicators are important, they can undermine or fail to recognise strength-based indicators critical to shifting ultimate wellbeing when assessed on their own.

At Children’s Ground, we define key indicators with the community to ensure both culture and strength are embedded and recognised in progress measures and outcomes indicators.

Our Approach is broken into five-yearly strategic development plans and annual progress indicators. These inform a comprehensive evaluation report every three years. Over time, we are evaluating the quality and impact of our work across outcomes for children, families and communities, as well as processes in system, service and practice reform and change.

Our Monitoring and Evaluation framework consists of nine long-term outcomes for children, their families and the community. Each of these has short and medium-term indicators that are the building blocks of long-term change. This will allow us to report back to the community, our investors and partners, and will build an evidence base for an approach to achieving equity, inclusion and addressing extreme disadvantage over the long-term.

A high degree of innovation and responsiveness is embedded within our evaluation approaches so that evidencing the Children’s Ground Approach is shaped by each community for their children, families and local context. We draw on both Western and First Nations approaches to monitoring and evaluation.

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Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Framework

Our M&E Framework includes the following:

  • Daily monitoring against key progress indicators for each outcome for children, families and community
  • Quantitative analysis of internal and external administrative data
  • Qualitative and quantitative analysis – short and long form interviews and surveys
  • Developmental evaluation (at community and organisation level) of practice, delivery, system and environment
  • Systems evaluation – quality, integrity and standards, efficiency and effectiveness of the Children’s Ground Approach
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Decades of evidence confirms that the greatest return on investment in social and economic terms is achieved by starting early with children (before school age) and responding to all key social and cultural determinants of health, wellbeing and life.

Our impact can only be truly understood over a generation – when the generation of children growing up with Children’s Ground are young adults and become the majority of families who have experienced positive education, health and cultural learning and wellbeing from their earliest years; when they have had a voice and agency over their own lives and have experienced lifelong inclusion and equity in education, health, social and economic life.

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Evaluation Reports

Analyses impact against the Evaluation Framework as part of the longitudinal evaluation.

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Quarterly Impact Reports

Sharing our growth, reach and impact over time.

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Annual Reports

Tracks our yearly progress.

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Community Reports

Designed by community, for community.

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Emerging Evidence

In 2019, Children’s Ground published its first Evaluation Report. Covering the period of 2014-2016 in Kakadu West Arnhem in which Children’s Ground established ‘proof of concept’ over three years of operations. Children’s Ground seeks to work with communities to create conditions for a better life experience for the current and future generations of children. This Evaluation Report illustrates how we do that.

Evaluation of operations in Kakadu has evidenced that over three and a half years, Children’s Ground created a new reality for a critical mass of children during the period of our operations.
Our key findings include:


  • A new population of children aged 0-5 years who had never previously participated in formal early learning engaged in early years learning with Children’s Ground
  • A critical mass (75%) of children aged 0-5 years across the region engaged with formal early learning at Children’s Ground
  • 100% of children engaged with their first language and participated in cultural learning alongside their families and from cultural educators
  • 86% of families reported an improvement in children speaking their first language
  • 100% of children who were engaged in Children’s Ground formal learning showed increased nutritional intake, health behaviours and health knowledge
ABS Census data supports the finding that Children’s Ground has been associated with a large rise in engagement in early childhood education in Kakadu.


  • 100% of children had family directly engaged in their learning, health and wellbeing
  • 91% of family members reported increased family engagement with children
  • Families were active in health and emotional wellbeing promotion – for themselves and their children
  • Widespread employment and retention of local Bininj (First Nations) families, with 87 local Bininj people employed, most of whom were previously long-term unemployed
This employment outcome is significant when comparing against a national trend that has seen minimal improvement in Aboriginal employment outcomes in 10 years of Closing the Gap.


  • 162 people were involved in approximately 170 community governance meetings throughout operations in KWA
  • Bininj cultural governance processes were respected and embedded in Children’s Ground governance
  • 80% of families reported that Children’s Ground listened to what Bininj wanted
  • 87% of families reported ‘more’ or ‘a lot more’ activities for families/community compared to before Children’s Ground
  • 86% of families interviewed reported Children’s Ground as a safe place for the community
Bininj reported improved individual and community safety in relation to cultural, emotional and environmental safety