Skip to content

National Guidelines for inclusion of wellbeing in early childhood checks

Mental health concerns often begin during childhood and an estimated 50% of adult mental illness begins before 14 years of age.

The National Mental Health Commission is leading a project to develop National Guidelines to support states and territories to include mental health and wellbeing in early childhood health checks (National Guidelines project). 

This project is due to be completed in 2024. 

The National Guidelines project complements the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and aligns with the Strategy’s principles:

National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy PRINCIPLES


Evidence indicates the first 2,000 days of life are a critical period, and interventions during this time can result in significant improvements to children’s early life experiences, health and development.

All states and territories include wellbeing milestones in their early childhood health checks. However, there is no nationally consistent approach. The introduction of National Guidelines would support consistency, assist in picking up emerging challenges children are experiencing, and help families access timely support and advice.

Two young infants

Project timeline

There are three phases to the project: 

  1. Environmental scan: August to June 2023
  2. National Consultation: July to September 2023
  3. Consultation on the draft National Guidelines: January to March 2024

Advisory Group

A project Advisory Group has been established to provide expertise, insights and advice on the development of National Guidelines. Members of the Advisory Group are:

Name Organisation

Professor Ngiare Brown, co-chair  

General Practitioner and Chair of the National Mental Health Commission Advisory Board

Anne Hollonds, co-chair  

National Children’s Commissioner

Kate Armstrong

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)

Adele Cox

Secretariat of the National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC)

Professor Valsamma Eapen

UNSW, Academic Unit of Child Psychiatry Southwest Sydney (AUCS), BestSTART  

Bronwyn Field

Department of Health and Aged Care

Emily Humphreys

Parent/carer representative

Associate Professor Nitin Kapur

Paediatrician, Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)

Brad Morgan

Emerging Minds

Professor Frank Oberklaid

Paediatrician, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Sharon O’Mara

Children and Young People with Disability Australia

Dr Marshall Watson

Psychiatrist, Telethon Kids Institute 

Dr Nicole White

General Practitioner, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)

Louise Wightman

Maternal Child and Family Health Nurses Australia


Get involved

The Commission engaged The Australian Centre for Social Innovation to undertake a national consultation process, including an online survey and a series of workshops with key stakeholders to inform the development of the National Guidelines. The survey ran from July to August and is now closed. National workshops were held throughout August and September 2023.

The Commission is consulting with state and territory government agencies on the draft National Guidelines in January to February 2024. The draft National Guidelines will then be released for public consultation via open submissions on the Commission's website in February to March 2024. You can stay up to date on this work by subscribing to our newsletter here.

Enquiries relating to the National Guidelines project can be directed to [email protected]



The National Mental Health Commission provides cross-sectoral leadership on policy, programs, services and systems that support better mental health and social and emotional wellbeing in Australia. 

There are three main strands to the Commission’s work: monitoring and reporting on Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention systems; providing independent advice to government and the community; and acting as a catalyst for change.

This work supports the Commission’s launch of the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

The Strategy is the first of its kind, with a focus on children from birth through to 12 years of age, as well as the families and communities that nurture them. The Children’s Strategy provides the framework and foundations for lifelong mental health and wellbeing for children and provides recommendations on how children’s wellbeing can be supported by families, communities, education settings and the service system.  

The Strategy is a call to action for a fundamental, cultural shift in the way we think about mental health and wellbeing for children.   

This shift includes thinking more broadly about children’s experiences along a wellbeing continuum. Children’s emotional experiences cannot always be distinctly defined as well or unwell, as there are varying levels of mental health and wellbeing. Therefore, it is more accurate to describe emotional experiences as falling along a continuum. We want to advocate for language that recognises that mental health is experienced on a continuum, and that a diagnosis should not be a prerequisite to supporting children who are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing. 

This project focuses on the development of National Guidelines for states and territories to operationalise. It is not intended that the Guidelines would contain screening or assessment tools for social and emotional wellbeing in early childhood.

This project has a multi-phase approach with a focus on consultation throughout the process. In Phase 1, we focused on speaking with state and territory governments and stakeholders with subject matter expertise.

In Phase 2, we are looking to engage with a broad range of stakeholders which cover all the touchpoints of early childhood, including parents, families and carers, GPs, nurses and health workers, early childhood educators, and peak bodies and professional associations.

The Commission is funded by the Department of Health and Aged Care to lead this project.

Aboriginal flag Torres Strait Islander flag

Acknowledgement of Country

The Commission acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands throughout Australia.
We pay our respects to their clans, and to the elders, past present and emerging, and acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community.


The Commission is committed to embracing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the provision of health services. The Commission welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lived Experience

We acknowledge the individual and collective contributions of those with a lived and living experience of mental ill-health and suicide, and those who love, have loved and care for them. Each person’s journey is unique and a valued contribution to Australia’s commitment to mental health suicide prevention systems reform.