Release type: Speech

Date:

Launch - Working for a Stronger Future

Ministers:

The Hon Kate Ellis MP
Minister for Early Childhood Education, Child Care and Youth

Acknowledgments

  • The Kaurna[pronounced Gar - na]people - traditional owners of the land on which we meet.
  • Rhonda Bignell, CEO Family Day Care Australia
  • Lynne Moran, Chair of the Board of Family Day Care Australia
  • Board members of Family Day Care Australia
  • Members of the National Members Forum of Family Day Care Australia
  • Immediate Past President of Family Day Care Australia, Kym Groth
  • Denise Taylor, CEO of the National Child Care Accreditation Council
  • David Wilson, President of the In Home Care Association

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this very important event.

I am delighted to join the Family Day Care Australia team today.

For generations of Australian children, family day care has been a safe and trusted ‘home away from home’.

The family day care sector has a critical role in the lives of working families, who could not do without the quality care and early childhood education that family day carers provide.

Working parents have been able to enjoy peace of mind while they concentrate on their jobs knowing that their children are in good hands—well looked after and thriving in a stimulating play and learning environment.

Family Day Care Australia

In the 35 years since Family Day Care Australia started, changes in Australian society have pushed up demand for early childhood education and care.

In the time that Family Day Care has grown from a small ‘cottage industry’ in the mid-1970s, to a thriving and crucial part of our sector today. They are now more than 300 FDC schemes in operation, over 12,000 carers around the country, providing care and education for over 100,000 Australian children.

This is a great achievement, and I know one that everyone in this room can be very proud of.

In recent decades, our understanding of the importance of quality early education has grown.

At the same time, we have developed a better understanding of the critical importance of your profession in the development of each new generation.

We have come to appreciate that the quality of learning experiences during the early years of a child’s life sets the stage for all future learning and development.

Well-qualified carers and better carer-to-child ratios are two important elements in the equation for best outcomes.

Still, some people may wonder why we want to focus on the early years – why not just let children be children?

But international evidence shows that children do their most vital learning during their first five years of life.

And that this early learning is extremely important for future outcomes for children – their development, health and wellbeing.

The research has also shown that a quality early childhood education can help overcome disadvantage and set young children on the road to a happy and healthy future.

COAG

Every child deserves the best possible start in life and this is why we are improving the quality of early childhood education and care.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed in December last year to raise the quality of early childhood education and child care.

The key changes in COAG’s new national quality standards include:

  • better carer-to-child ratios – so each carer has more precious time to spend with individual children
  • new qualification requirements forall early childhood education workers – so carers can lead activities that really help children learn and develop
  • a quality ratings system – so families can easily compare the quality of different child care services and make informed decisions about what’s best for their children, and
  • a new national body to manage the quality system, with state and territory agencies responsible for administering regulations.

Can I just say a word about the change in family day care staff to child ratios. I know that some states currently have a maximum of five children under school age and that moving to four children under school age will present some challenges.

This concern was heard during the extensive consultation period that we held last year and that is why the introduction of this new requirement was pushed back by two years from 2012 to 2014.

We are very keen to work closely with the Family Day Care sector to provide the necessary support to help both Family Day Care schemes and carers to adjust to the new arrangements.

We want to build on the strengths of Family Day Care to ensure carers are valued, respected and rewarded, and children continue to have positive, high quality learning experiences in a home-environment.

Family Day Care Five Year Plan

That is why I am so thrilled to see Family Day Care Australia take such a positive and proactive step in developing a five year plan -Working for a stronger future.

The vision set out in this plan “inspiring children to reach their full potential” is absolutely critical, and one the Government supports whole-heartedly.

This is an important initiative which demonstrates real leadership at a time of change for early childhood education and care in Australia.

The plan will help achieve high quality family day care, supported by a qualified and well resourced workforce.

The plan will ensure that children have positive experiences - that foster their development and provide a strong platform for their later learning.

The plan will help experienced carers already working in Family Day Care to gain or improve their qualifications.

And can I say that supporting existing carers is absolutely critical – we will not be able to achieve higher quality care unless we retain and value the experience of our existing workforce.

The plan will also help raise the profile of family day care, and in doing so will help attract new carers to the profession, enabling the sector to expand and support more families and children.

The five year plan will build on the strengths of the family day care sector – and ensure the sector is well placed to deal with coming opportunities and challenges.

Announcement

The Australian Government will partner with Family Day Care Australia to build a stronger and more sustainable family day care sector.

I am pleased to announce today that the Australian Government will contribute $390,000 over the next three years to support Family Day Care Australia implement their five year plan. This funding will be absolutely critical in making the vision of the five year plan a reality.

There is a lot to do but I am looking forward to the challenge, and I hope you are too. I look forward to working closely with Family Day Care Australia to build a stronger sector.

Government’s commitments to the early years

Before I finish I would like to briefly touch on the Rudd Government’s achievements in the area of early childhood.

Previous Government’s ignored the realms of international and local evidence that demonstrate that experiences in the early years shape children’s future health, wellbeing and happiness.

The early years set children on a journey. If they have positive, happy and secure relationships before they start school children are much more likely to be happy and confident learners, and go onto to have a productive and happy life.

Tackling entrenched disadvantage early is much more successful than trying to do this when children have started school.

The Rudd Government have heard these messages loud and clear. We have elevated early childhood education and child care onto the national stage. We have been progressing an ambitious reform agenda through the Council of Australian Governments.

We are committed to ensuring early childhood education and child care is accessible, affordable and of high quality. Like Family Day Care Australia we want to ensure that children are given the best possible start to life.

And we are backing this up with an investment of $16 billion over the next four years.

Closing lines

I commend Family Day Care on their five year plan and look forward to working with you to build a strong future for family day care and most importantly building a strong future for all children.

Family Day Care Australia should be tremendously proud of their achievement and determination to positively support the sector.

What greater reward is there than helping children reach their full potential.

Thank you.