Berry Street Childhood Institute

Berry Street has been supporting vulnerable children and young people since 1877. Over our long history we have grown to meet increasing demand and adapted to meet new challenges. As the Australian economy and society become increasingly complex, the conditions of childhood are changing: many children are flourishing in the 21st century but the wellbeing of increasing numbers of children appears to be declining. Berry Street continues to provide Victorian children with care, protection and support as our core business but we know we must do more to avert the growing crisis for children who are at risk. 

In 2010 we developed the Berry Street Strategic Directions 2027 which commit Berry Street to broadening and deepening our impact on the lives of children through greater advocacy, service innovation and knowledge sharing. The establishment of the Berry Street Childhood Institute in July 2012 was a major outcome of this undertaking, providing Berry Street with a national platform from which to highlight the importance of a good childhood for all children in Australia. 

Our Purpose

We believe children, young people and families should be safe, thriving and hopeful. The Berry Street Childhood Institute contributes to this vision by collaboratively building and sharing knowledge, encouraging public dialogue and mobilising leadership.

The Institute seeks to address two key questions:

  • What sustains a good childhood? and

  • How can we best support those who have not experienced a good childhood?

Both issues are important in their own right but we are most interested in their interrelationship. In posing these questions we are recognising the intrinsic importance to society generally of focusing on childhood whilst also acknowledging Berry Street’s particular interest in ameliorating adverse childhood experiences. We choose to focus on better understanding what the contemporary challenges of childhood mean for vulnerable children and young people. 

We believe it is important to explore these questions as broadly as possible: with Berry Street’s staff, carers and supporters, other community organisations, school communities, peak bodies, researchers, government, policy makers as well as with the general public, including children and young people themselves. In doing so we aim to:

  • Build Berry Street’s own capacity to support the children and young people in our services;
  • Contribute to building capacity to better meet the needs of children across multiple service sectors and systems;

  • Influence government priorities so children, particularly vulnerable children, are at the centre of policy and funding decisions;

  • Better understand what children and young people think constitutes a good childhood in contemporary Australia;

  • Encourage discussion and debate in the Australian community about the changing conditions of childhood.

What we do

The Berry Street Childhood Institute is a knowledge–into-action centre for improving childhood with four major areas of activity:

  • Knowledge building – we have established a joint research fellow with the University of Melbourne to undertake childhood research;

  • Good Childhood Initiatives – we evaluate areas of innovation from across Berry Street’s services and practice;

  • Knowledge sharing and translation – we hold training and events; offer a consultancy service; and produce reports and articles;

  • Awareness raising and influencing – we engage children and young people, parents, the general community and decision makers in discussion about 21st Century childhood.


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