Release type: Speech


Speech - Family Day Care Australia National Conference


The Hon Kate Ellis MP
Minister for Employment Participation
Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care

Speech at Family Day Care Australia National Conference

Brisbane, 19 July 2012

I want to begin my remarks by first acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

I also want to acknowledge some of the fabulous people in the room here to today.

Lynne Moran, Family Day Care Australia Board Chair.

Carla Northam, whom I have the pleasure of working with as the Family Day Care Australia CEO, and I know how committed Carla is to the future of this sector.

Geraldine Cox, the keynote speaker who you will be hearing from later on.

To Representatives of state family day care associations, representatives of family day care coordination units, and I think, most importantly, to family day carers.

It is so wonderful to see so many of you here together in the one place.

I am absolutely delighted to be joining with you today to open the 2012 International Family Day Care Australia Conference here in Brisbane.

Now we know that Family Day Care has an incredibly proud history in Australia spanning over a number of decades now 

My mother was bragging to some of my stakeholders recently, that my early childhood education was courtesy of a family day carer.

I can’t recollect or vouch for that but I know that there are hundreds of thousands of Australian children – now Australian adults – who have received critical early childhood education and care at the hands of family day carers, and you should be congratulated at that amazing job.

Now we know that there has been huge progress over those years.

A sector that largely started out as way earn a little bit of extra money each week – with mainly stay at home mothers looking after their own children and taking on a couple of extras – is now a major part of our formal early childhood education and care sector.

And gone are the days when what you do is considered to be babysitting. We know that it is so much more than that.

With a variety of different business models, family day carers can earn good incomes – they can build successful careers and businesses as early childhood educators.

But we also know that while family day care has played a critical role for decades now that now is the time that we need to be focusing on making sure that that important role is taken forward into the future.

Today – more than ever – this sector is such an important and valued part of Australian families’ lives.

You’re assisting more parents to get into work  –so that they can provide a better future for them and their families.

And you’re assisting more children to get the best start in life –by providing them with their first education.

 Now we know that as our workplaces change right across the economy of Australia, as the hours of work, who is working and for how long changes, then we need to look at the future challenges and we need to look at how we can best support that future workforce.

At this time, recognition of family day care is growing in communities across Australia.

In fact in the last twelve months alone, my Department’s data shows that the number of children using Family Day Care has increased by 7 per cent.

7% in a year – that’s pretty massive.

Your model of regulated care in the home, with a support network through the family day care units, is incredibly well regarded.

 Flexibility and Innovation

Not only does it provide an enriching early childhood program for young children, but it is also more flexible for families than other forms of care.

This has enabled family day care services to be innovative in tailoring services around children and families – rather than working the other way round - with families having to fit around the existing forms of care.

Now I know that one of the themes of the conference starting today is ‘Connecting with Others’.

So I’m sure you are going to hear many stories about some of the innovation that is occurring across the family day care sector – not only here in Australia – but around the world.

And I want to share just a couple of those examples with you this morning, because there is some amazing innovation going on in this space, and I think we should recognise it, I think we should be inspired by it.

I think we should be constantly looking at what comes next. What’s the next step.

The kind of innovation demonstrated by Moira Family Day Care in Cobram, Victoria – where Uniting Care delivers a vocational education program to around 25 young students.

Now the students that Uniting Care are working with there include several young mothers aged between 16 and 18 years, who until recently, were trying to bring their infants to class with them to juggle trying to be young teenage mothers but also trying to get back into the educational system at the same time.

Now, obviously this is not a situation that is ideal for either the students, or indeed the babies.

But the Family Day centre stepped in to provide support to the young mothers while they study, leading to an increase in their class attendance which is a fantastic outcome for the whole community.

Another example of an innovative and flexible model is the Windermere Family Day Care coordination unit, in Narre Warren, Victoria.

Windermere provides care for a 9 year old child whose sole parent is a shift worker in the Aged Care sector.

And we know that we are looking for more workers in the aged care sector, many of them shift workers.

Receiving their roster only two weeks in advance, the parent works in partnership with the service to establish the availability of care and, if necessary, to arrange with their employer to re-organise shifts.

They actually have a model where that carer changes their hours to meet the roster requirements and they negotiate it sitting down week by week.

This collaborative approach - which wouldn’t be possible in a centre-based child care - has allowed the parent to continue to work in their chosen profession whilst providing a stable and quality child care environment for the child.

We wouldn’t be able to do that in long day care.

And these are just some of the examples of the innovative models which are providing flexible, quality and affordable early childhood education and care to children right around Australia.

Next Steps

Just over a month ago, the Prime Minister and I came together in Sydney with child care providers – with unions - with sector peaks, including Family Day Care Australia to talk about these very issues.

To talk about making sure that our care sector keeps up with the changes in our society.

Because the Government is currently considering how we can build on the reforms we’ve made to early childhood education and care with the next steps.

 And as we do so, we will be looking to the future of the early childhood education and care.

We want to be raising our eyes - what is the sector going to look like in 10 years time?

This triennial conference which begins today is a great opportunity for you to start thinking and discussing these questions as we continue this important work.

When I look forward to the next 10 years in the child care sector I see family day care playing an increasingly important role for families in our changing economy.

We’re going to be relying on you, and we want to work in partnership with you to get us there.

Family day care has been at the forefront of the Early Childhood Education and Care because you’ve embraced change, and you’ve embraced the challenges that change brings, and you’ve adapted to them.

National Quality Framework

Now as you all know, at the beginning of this year the early childhood education and care sector took an important step in the implementation of the National Quality Standard.

We know that from 2014 all family day carers will be working towards, or hold, a Certificate III or equivalent qualification.

I know that this hasn’t been an easy step for you. It has been with many challenges for many people in the sector.

But I’ve also been really excited to hear some of the examples about how family day carers have embraced these important reforms.

For example, staff at Darwin Family Day Care are taking the next step in their career by actually completing their Bachelor of Teaching in Early Childhood.

These qualifications will allow the coordination unit staff to take part in a school readiness program for 3-5 year olds.

And this is symbolic of the types of changes that are occurring right across the early childhood education and care sector with the national quality reforms.

Now I know that I am preaching to the converted when I say that the early years of a child’s life are absolutely critical for their development – each and every person in this room knows that.

But it’s worth reminding ourselves that the evidence shows that a staggering 90% of brain development occurs in these years.

That’s enormous. It shows how important the experiences that children are having in those critical years is in shaping , not just their early years, but their whole lives.

And all of the research shows that we can link what is happening in those critical early years with educational outcomes later down the track, with developmental outcomes, with heath outcomes and social outcomes right down the track.

That is why it is so important that we get it right for Australian children.

 You are, quite literally, shaping the lives of the next generation of Australians.

And I know that that can sound a little bit daunting -

I also know that Family Day Care Australia, the state branches and your coordination units continue to provide each one of you with an excellent level of professional support so that you can concentrate on giving our children the best start.

I have absolutely appreciated the advocacy of Family Day Care Australia in the development of our national quality reforms and I will continue to work closely with you as we implement the standards with the States and Territory Governments.

Family Day Care as a Professional Sector

I believe that the family day care sector’s commitment to these reforms is building public confidence in your care type.

And that’s because the development of a qualified, professional sector will generate confidence that you are providing the best outcomes for children.

But it‘s also highlighting family day care as a career of choice for early childhood educators.

Your sector is offering real career paths for early childhood educators.

And our Government believes in what you are doing. So much so, that we are investing $22.3 billion over the next four years – triple the amount of the last Government into the early childhood education and care sector – because we just get how important it is.

But there is more to do, and I am certain that the growing professionalism of this sector will ensure that it is more sustainable to meet the needs of the next generation of Australian children and their families.


You do have an incredibly proud history. I hope that you reflect on that over the next three days, but also that you look forward to the future.

You are a sector that’s embraced change, and responded with innovation.

And as we take the next steps in improving our early childhood education and care system for families, that family day carers will be important partners in that journey.

On behalf of the Government I really wanted to come here today to say that we value the work that you do.

I hope you get the most out of this Triennial Conference - by connecting with your peers, challenging your practices and celebrating the children that you work with each and every day.

The children and families of Australia are not the only beneficiaries of the family day care profession – it’s our whole community. Thank you for that.

And I am very proud to declare the 2012 International Family Day Care Australia Conference officially open.


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