Every Child and ANZSOG ground-breaking systems leadership project

Media Statement

21 April 2021

Leaders from government, non-government and corporate agencies have joined forces to unlock new and better ways of supporting children and young people across Australia.

The non-government network, of 80 organisations, Every Child *teamed-up with Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) —an authority in public sector administration—to undertake the innovative Systems Leadership for Child and Youth Well-Being Project.

The Stage 1 report of this project was distributed this week to the Prime Minister and members of National Cabinet (see https://www.everychild.co/systems_leadership_for_child_wellbeing).

The key message in the report is that the wellbeing of children and young people must be a nation-building priority - all children can start school ready to learn and leave school ready for life and work, with concerted leadership, early support to children and families, and much better integrated support systems.

The challenge is that 20% of children in Australia do not start school ready to learn —many continue to fall behind (AEDC, 2019). COVID-19 has compounded hardship for many children and young people.

Every Child was founded and remains funded by The Benevolent Society as a network of organisations who are on a quest to elevate child and youth wellbeing as a nation-building priority. A key aim is to effect to promote systemic, not simply programmatic change to improve life outcomes for every child.

Leith Sterling, Co-Chair of Every Child said that: “We have an abundance of evidence, plans and reports, including the Family Matters Reports, that show what is needed for every child to thrive. The evidence is clear and compelling —support systems and service providers must take action in the early years of life; sustain the support to those who need it, and work together across agencies.

The unique focus of this collaboration between Every Child and ANZSOG is to find ways for health, housing, early years learning and care, schools, and all support systems to work better together. Services are fragmented, and often not readily available to children and young people - particularly if they live outside of the big cities.

We must identify challenges and risks and bundle up support early with children and families to prevent problems from escalating.”

Ken Smith Dean and CEO of ANZSOG said that he signed up to this systems leadership project as “…ANZSOG is promoting excellence and innovation in public administration. It is important that public sector leaders reimagine their roles and their responses to complex national issues —the vulnerability that 20% of Australian children endure is one of those persistent challenges”.

 The joint project received written endorsement from the Prime Minister and other State and Territory leaders.

Ms Sterling praised the support of ANZSOG in acknowledging that: “The authority and expertise of ANZSOG and the project team has helped to attract the active participation of senior executives from Education, Health, Treasury and other agencies who have a role in better integrating and advancing child and youth well-being in Australia and New Zealand.

First Nations leaders, and representatives from the tertiary, philanthropic and corporate sectors have joined the process to map, learn and strategise about how best to address systems level opportunities and barriers impeding every child and young person reaching their potential.”

In the Stage 2 of the project, the team will continue to share learning and build networks of public service leaders and non-government leaders.

The aim is to jointly identify practical systems leadership and reform opportunities that can be considered by government and in due course, the National Cabinet.

The six key elements essential for advancing systems leadership that have emerged in this project include:

  • Concerted systems leadership
  • Smarter investment
  • Engaged public and communities
  • Stronger, systems capable workforces
  • Integrated delivery
  • Putting data, evidence and learning to work

The Every Child members from across Australia together with ANZSOG are planning opportunities for Stage 2 of the project that progress these six elements.  

The project team will continue to brief leaders and networks. They are also inviting indications of interest in forming co-design and action learning groups around key propositions and opportunities. 

“We sincerely hope that the Final Stage 1 Report informs your important work, at whatever level, in supporting children, young people and their families”, said Ms Sterling.



If you are interested in talking with us further, please contact Leith Sterling Co-Chair, Every Child and Executive Director, Executive Director Child, Youth and Family, Practice and Quality, The Benevolent Society via the Every Child Secretariat on [email protected] or Lin Hatfield –Dodds, Associate Dean, ANZSOG on [email protected]


Every Child is a national advocacy campaign spearheaded by The Benevolent Society that aims to promote the wellbeing of children and young people. We know that with strong support, stable relationships, and a safe place to call home every child and young person can thrive. This means supporting families to navigate tough times. We recognise the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders across the country to advance the interests of their children, young people and families. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are removed from their families at ten times the rate of non-Indigenous children, this is a national shame and Every Child is committed to supporting the self-determination and advocacy work of our First Nations people as they work to ensure their children and young people have the opportunity to grow up well cared for and safe in family and community. Australia's children need us to get this right, and we can.


Every Child