UNSW has welcomed a $5 million gift from the Financial Markets Foundation for Children that will help give vunerable children in Australia the opportunities they need to reach their full potential.

The philanthropic gift, from Australia’s major banks including the Reserve Bank of Australia, will help establish a UNSW Chair in Paediatric Population Health, a first for New South Wales.

The Chair will take on a new leadership role aimed at arresting the cycle of health and social inequity among children in Australia, which carries significant costs across society.

It was one of two $5 million gifts announced today by the Financial Markets Foundation for Children (FMFC). The second went to the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre. The donations follow a similiar $5 million gift from the FMFC  to the University of Melbourne in 2013 for research into child health.

The most recent national Australian Early Development Census of children who are commencing their first year of school, identified 32% of socially disadvantaged children as ‘developmentally vulnerable’, double the number of their more advantaged peers.

International research shows that if all children had the same level of health as their most advantaged peers, there would be a 30-70% reduction in chronic health conditions, learning difficulties, mental health problems and accidental and non-accidental injuries.

Chancellor of UNSW, Mr David Gonski AC, said the new partnership is about creating a better life trajectory for all children and providing additional support to those who need it during their formative years.

“We welcome the recognition by the Financial Markets Foundation for Children that investing early on in future generations, with a focus on some of our most vulnerable children, is the most equitable way of improving outcomes across whole populations of children,” Mr Gonski said.

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General Counsel of LegalVision, Ursula Hogben, Chancellor of UNSW, David Gonski AC, UNSW Dean of Medicine, Professor Rodney Phillips, Laura Goldsmith, Director Development UNSW Foundation and Founder and Director of the Financial Markets Foundation for Children (FMFC), Paul Robertson AM.

Professor Rodney Phillips, UNSW Dean of Medicine, said optimal child health should be a fundamental measure of the success or otherwise of society.

“Without intervention children damaged by ill health and neglect will struggle to catch up with their socially advantaged peers,” Professor Phillips said.

“This new Chair will direct research that will result in the greatest benefit to child health. This includes improving access to health care and to early intervention programs for disadvantaged children.

“By intervening much more actively, the developmental, physical and mental health needs of these children are more likely to be met. This individual benefit will then resonate throughout society.”

The UNSW Chair in Paediatric Population Health will measure the impact of disadvantage on children’s development and then identify potentially modifiable factors at the child, family, school, and community level that contribute to inequitable outcomes.

The Chair will partner with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, research collaborators, policy makers and practitioners to increase the evidence base for interventions to reduce inequities in Australia.

Read the Australian Financial Review story here.