First 5 Forever in the Torres Strait – connecting with families

In February, Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC) Indigenous Knowledge Centre (IKC) staff met on Thursday Island to brainstorm ways to promote First 5 Forever throughout the region.

Ella Kris, TSIRC Manager Health and Wellbeing/IKC said she was keen to share the learnings with her community from participating in First 5 Forever professional development. She wanted to explore a way to help families understand a child’s journey through the literacy lens and highlight the importance of early literacy. A community focus was the key criteria and building understanding in the community around the importance of the first five years was essential.

Ella gathered staff from Boigu, Warraber and Masig islands to discuss the First 5 Forever timeline. The timeline is an activity used in First 5 Forever professional development workshops to demonstrate the importance of the first five years, the impact of literacy on life outcomes and what families can do in the early years to maximise their child’s literacy journey.

The TSIRC team unpacked the contents of this activity provided by State Library of Queensland, discussed the elements and added in a range of cultural considerations specific to their community. They then ran a focus group with local community members and families to gain feedback on the activity. As a result, a re-packaged timeline activity was provided to the IKCs in the Torres Strait to use with their local community.

The adapted activity:

  • promotes a shared understanding in the community of the importance of first five years
  • the role of families and caregivers in their child’s early literacy
  • spreads the talk, play, sing, read message and;
  • promotes the role of IKCs in each community.

Books for various age groups from the IKC were connected to the timeline so families can clearly see which books are suitable for different age groups. The discussions around what families can do in the early years focussing on the talk, play, sing, read message involves encouraging families to borrow from the IKC and attend IKC programs such as story time and rhyme time. As part of this work, the TSIRC team also worked on translating nursery rhymes into local Indigenous languages for use in the IKC rhyme time sessions.

Barbara Dau from Boigu Island

It’s a great example of how communities can adapt First 5 Forever content to suit local cultural and community context.

For any queries, please contact the First 5 Forever team at

Hear Ella Kris talk about the TSIRC experience.