A CHILD'S early years are some of the most important for the child and the parents.
For Aboriginal families, this can be the most challenging time as they are at risk of many disadvantages.
Aboriginal babies are at increased risk of perinatal infant mortality and low birth weight.
Loddon Mallee's Aboriginal Reference Group has identified the issue as a high-priority in the Bendigo community.
The Mallee District Aboriginal Services ran the pilot program in Mildura and saw its success was widespread in the community.
The pilot program gave the Loddon Mallee group a starting point for their new program, The Early Years.
It will aim to bring generational change for Koori families by encouraging increased connection between parent and child.
Re-attaching the parents with their children helps develop a strong connection that encourages empathy.
The program will spread to Swan Hill, Echuca and Robinvale.
Loddon Mallee's Aboriginal Reference Group chairman Rudolph Kirby said the program was about creating an accessible case management system to help engage parents with their children.
"We want every child to have the best start to life," he said.
"We know that a disproportionate number of Aboriginal mothers and babies start their journey at a disadvantage.
"Aboriginal women are three times more likely to smoke."
Mr Kirby said the negative statistics could not be ignored any longer.
He hoped they would close the gap for Aboriginals.
"We are investing right at the beginning of life," he said.
Aboriginal Children and Young People Victorian Commissioner Andrew Jackomos said the program was promoting better results for families.
"If you include the community you are more likely to get better outcomes," he said.
"It will build stronger families."