ECA represents ECEC sector at Senate Select Committee Hearing on Work and Care
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > ECA represents ECEC sector at Senate Select Committee Hearing on Work and Care

ECA represents ECEC sector at Senate Select Committee Hearing on Work and Care

by Freya Lucas

September 21, 2022

Samantha Page, Early Childhood Australia (ECA) CEO, has represented the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector at the recent Senate Select Committee hearing on Work and Care.


The Senate Select Committee was assembled to explore the impact that combining work and care responsibilities has on the wellbeing of workers, carers and those they care for.


During the public hearing, Ms Page called for measures that build equity into the ECEC system to support children’s outcomes, and female workforce participation, allowing families to balance work and care responsibilities, whilst also addressing the critical workforce shortages being experienced by the ECEC sector. 


Australia, Ms Page said, lags behind other countries in terms of access to ECEC for children at the age of three years. She called on the Committee to consider ECA’s recommendations to improve equitable access to ECEC, which include: 


  • developing and adopting a new funding model for remote and complex environments
  • adopting the three-day guarantee proposed by the Centre for Policy Development
  • extending the Preschool Reform Funding Agreement to children from the age of three
  • firmer commitment on lifting the participation rates for vulnerable cohorts.


“A lot of state governments are paying attention to expanding access to early childhood education as they realise how patchy provision is, particularly in rural and outer suburban areas,” Ms Page said. 


‘We are dependent on the market for provision of early childhood services. The market does not even know where there are services that are half full or where there is demand coming in terms of new housing developments, or where there will be more young families. Therefore, currently provision of services is more about real estate availability, and return on investment rather than addressing oversupply or undersupply.”


Ms Page also spoke at length about the workforce issues in the ECEC sector, especially low wages being the most common reason for people leaving the sector. She called for some immediate short-term interventions to stabilise the workforce, in addition to the implementation of long-term strategies highlighted in ACECQA’s National Workforce Implementation Plan.


On behalf of ECA and the sector, Ms Page also supported lifting the maximum rate of Child Care Subsidy to 90 per cent, but without amending the activity test to increase the minimum hours, to avoid exacerbating existing inequity and widening attainment gaps for children in families with low incomes and insecure work. 


“We should not be treating workforce participation as a prerequisite (to encourage workforce participation) but should be seeing ECEC as an enabler,” she emphasised. 


Other key recommendations discussed by Ms Page at the hearing included improving professional recognition, pay and conditions for women working in the ECEC sector; extending the length and increasing the rate of paid parental leave besides adding superannuation to the payment to reduce retirement inequities; and, introducing community education campaigns on the importance of early childhood education and care.

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