Government removes key barrier to early learning for First Nations families, boosts subsidised hours
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > Government removes key barrier to early learning for First Nations families, boosts subsidised hours

Government removes key barrier to early learning for First Nations families, boosts subsidised hours

by Freya Lucas

September 27, 2022

The Federal Government will introduce new reforms this week which include a relaxation of CCS activity test requirements, designed to encourage more First Nation families to enroll their children into an early childhood education and care (ECEC) service. 


Currently 4.3 per cent of children in ECEC settings identify as being First Nations despite them making up 6.1 per cent of the population of children aged from birth to five years.


“For the first time, the Closing the Gap report said the school-readiness of Indigenous children has gone backwards,” Minister for Education Jason Clare said. 


“We have got to turn this around and a big part of that is getting rid of the roadblocks stopping them from going to early childhood education and care.” 


Under the changes, which are part of the Government’s Plan for Cheaper Child Care, First Nations families and their children will be eligible to access 36 hours of subsidised care in any given fortnight, compared to the current amount of 24 hours. 


“These simple changes will benefit around 6,600 First Nations families, boosting the hours Indigenous children are eligible for subsidised care from up to 24 hours a fortnight to 36 hours,” Minister for Early Childhood Education Anne Aly said.


“Not only do the changes help ease cost of living pressures, they provide even more opportunities for First Nations children to access the development, education and health benefits of early childhood education and care helping ensure they are school-ready.” 


The Government has also committed to invest $10.2 million to establish the Early Childhood Care and Development Policy Partnership between the Australian and State and Territory Governments and Indigenous representatives.


The partnership will be co-chaired by SNAICC – National Voice for our Children and help drive the development of community-led policies and programs that First Nations families need for their children to thrive.


ECEC sector voices applaud measures taken


A number of ECEC peak bodies including the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) and Early Childhood Australia (ECA) have responded to the announcement welcoming the reforms and subsequent benefits they are expected to bring. 


“It is promising to see the federal government’s collaborative approach to working with the state and territory governments, alongside SNAICC and other Indigenous representatives,” ECA CEO Samantha Page said.


“This will help in appropriately addressing the barriers to access in the current process and deliver better outcomes for children.”


Paul Mondo, President of the ACA added, “We strongly support the new reforms to improve access for Indigenous children, as removing the barriers to high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) for children from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds has always been a priority for the ACA.”


The ACA statement also noted that it has been advocating for the Government to simplify the application process for families to access subsidised early learning, with a strong recommendation to remove the complexities of the activity test for the benefit of all children and families.


“The activity test creates an unnecessary barrier to greater ECEC participation and positive learning outcomes as well as workforce participation,’ Mr Mondo explained. “We therefore hope this is the first step in reforming the activity test to ensure that subsidised access is available for all children.”


More information on the reform measures is available here. Image source: ECMS

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button