New appointment to help transform Early Years System in South Australia


Flinders Caring Futures Institute researcher Dr Sarah Hunter has been appointed Research Fellow, Healthy Start to Life as part of an impactful, valued partnership set to transform the translation of research into practice in South Australia.

Dr Hunter will co-ordinate and lead research aligned to the Public Health Partner Authority agreement between Wellbeing SA and Flinders Caring Futures Institute established in 2021. This will be a unique opportunity to apply knowledge translation and implementation skills to shape an evidence-informed Early Years System in South Australia that engages and supports parents and caregivers for improved child health and wellbeing.

“Making sure that children get the best start in life and that caregivers are properly supported in their caregiving journey is of utmost importance,” Dr Hunter says. “By partnering with Wellbeing SA and a diverse range of stakeholders, I will be helping to reprioritise the Early Years System to focus on prevention. This partnership will enable the Flinders Caring Futures Institute to translate our important health and care research into this new prevention-focused system.

With the overall aim of improving long term outcomes for children and their families, Dr Hunter is also hoping to address the critical challenge of reducing stigma around accessing care services and support.

“While accessing a GP might be straightforward, many people find it difficult to seek mental health support or just some of basic guidance around raising a child in those early years. It can be a confronting experience and they can often feel isolated.

“We are fortunate to have an abundance of existing health, education, social and community services available in South Australia. I will be looking at how we can improve access and make them more welcoming and inclusive, as well as investigating how we can raise awareness of services many caregivers may not even know exist.

“I think a lot of caregivers really do have needs but may not know where to go.

Deputy Director of Flinders Caring Futures Institute and Healthy Start to Life Lead, Professor Rebecca Golley, says she is excited about the impactful activity that is being undertaken in partnership with Wellbeing SA.

“The Institute has a strong research track record in understanding how systems and services can reach, engage and support parents in their roles as caregivers and children’s first teachers. A focal point of this partnership is looking at how to better support caregivers’ self-care.”

Caring Futures Institute Foundation Director and Vice President of Flinders’ College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Professor Alison Kitson, says the new position reflects and builds upon a valuable relationship with Wellbeing SA.

“Dr Hunter is in an ideal position to draw on the skills and experience developed within the Knowledge Translation-Fundamentals of Care team, combined with her track record in caregiving and fathering research.”

Dr Natasha Schranz, Wellbeing SA Manager Early Years, Children and Young People says the appointment complements the Early Years Priority Focus Area in the Wellbeing SA Strategic Plan 2020-2025.

“I think the pathway to impact will be so much more accessible now,” Dr Hunter says. “Flinders Caring Futures Institute has a well-established reputation for conducting world-class, on the ground research. This formalised partnership with Wellbeing SA will ensure we conduct research that is tailored to the needs of South Australians and will also facilitate the implementation and utilisation of our research findings.”

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