SNAICC calls for more support to help First Nations children navigate pandemic
Richard Weston, SNAICC CEO, has said that while the Federal Government have taken measures to support the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, “there are still issues that continue to create uncertainty for the present and the future for many of our early years services”.
ECEC services, Mr Weston continued, are “feeling the brunt of the economic and social trauma associated with this pandemic”.
Many families have withdrawn children from care, keeping them at home to avoid the spread of the virus, which has had a direct impact on the financial viability of these “important parts of our communities” he added, saying that while services are encouraging their families to re-enrol now they can access free child care, some services may close.
Support, in terms of the ECEC Relief Package, while welcome, fails to address a funding model which Mr Weston said is “designed for mainstream Australia and doesn’t do enough to consider the vulnerability of many of our children and their families – their needs are different”.
Disruption to learning during the first five years of a child’s life shapes their future outcomes, he continued, noting that “six months or more in the life of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child is significant and if the impact from this virus on families and services disrupts their education, it can have a big impact on their future and opportunities to thrive.”
“Our early childhood and care services are at the core of creating better futures for our children. If our governments are committed to closing the gap, they must support our early childhood education and care services in this time of need so they can deliver quality support for our children, and remain viable for when this pandemic passes,” Mr Weston said.
While the crisis “continues to expose the flaws in our government systems” he added, it also provides an opportunity to make improvements that will have a long lasting impact in the years ahead.
“We can build a sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early years sector with a skilled workforce embedded in culturally strong and well governed services. By doing this, we are making sure our children are at the centre of our thinking as we deal with the fall out from the pandemic.”
Mr Weston, on behalf of SNAICC, thanked the “numerous community organisations showing leadership and taking actions to help support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples draw on their knowledge and resilience to navigate these tough times.”
SNAICC have prepared a number of resources to support First Nations people navigate the pandemic. These may be accessed here.