New initiatives to support ECEC sector manage bushfire fallout
The Sector > Policy > New initiatives to support ECEC sector manage bushfire fallout

New initiatives to support ECEC sector manage bushfire fallout

by Jason Roberts

January 19, 2020

Federal Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, has confirmed a series of new initiatives focussed on supporting both the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector and those families with children enrolled in ECEC services that have been adversely impacted by the bushfire crisis. 


The announcement comes in the wake of a meeting of education sector representatives, which included the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Chair of peak body the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA), convened by Mr Tehan so that Government could more clearly understand the issues facing the sector at large and formulate responses thereafter. 


The key initiatives are as follows:


Mental health related initiatives


The Government has confirmed a commitment of an additional $8 million to Beyond Blue, the mental health charity, to fund 25 new liaison officers and supporting clinicians to work with ECEC services and schools in bushfire affected communities. 


The funding will be channelled to the ECEC sector through the Be You Early Learning initiative which promotes social and emotional health and well being for children and young people. 


Commenting on the announcement Sam Page, Chief Executive Officer of Early Childhood Australia said in a press release “This is an important investment for strengthening the mental health and wellbeing of children and their families whose lives have been disrupted by the devastating bushfires.”


Financial and subsidy related initiatives


Families that have had their work, study or volunteering hours disrupted by bushfire activity will be able to continue to claim their Child Care Subsidy based on their pre bushfire activity test hours. 


This will help more than 90,000 families in bushfire declared local government areas that might have incurred an activity test debt due to disruption and relieve them from the financial consequences, an activity test debt, that would normally occur of hours were to fall for any reason. 


The Government will also provide an additional $400 (a total of $800) for each child that has qualified for an Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.


The Disaster Recovery Payment begins when individuals and families that are impacted by a disaster and are in need of Government Assistance. It is a one off payment of $1,000 to eligible adults and $400, now doubled to $800 for eligible children under the age of 16. 


In addition, Mr Tehan confirmed that the Government will also commit to reprioritising funding from within the Community Child Care Fund for bushfire-affected areas. Grants obtained from the fund could help pay for temporary premises, replacement of damaged playground equipment, or wages for affected staff.


Organisational and support related initiatives


In light of requests for improved national coordination, including “very clear national guidelines on when to close” made by Ms Death following the meeting with Mr Tehan, the Government has acknowledged a set of further initiatives that will help “improve bushfire management and recovery” which include the following:


  • Working with the states and territories to improve access to information for child care providers on what to do in a bushfire and resources on air quality and managing the impact of smoke.
  • Making available to children, students, educators and families the Emerging Minds material on fire trauma, smoke and general education support.
  • Sharing with families and educators research on the effects of bushfires on child wellbeing.
  • Investigating the inclusion of trauma informed learning as part of Initial Teacher Education courses.
  • Working with universities to utilise their psychology and counselling resources to support existing mental health initiatives.

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