3 changes to make ECEC fairer: ELAA appeals to Australian Government
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > 3 changes to make ECEC fairer: ELAA appeals to Australian Government

3 changes to make ECEC fairer: ELAA appeals to Australian Government

by Freya Lucas

January 31, 2023

The Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) has appealed to the Australian Government to make access to early childhood education and care (ECEC) fairer by doing three things:


  1. Removing the Child Care Subsidy Activity Test of a parent or carer’s hours of work, study or volunteering for all First Nations families and extending the additional hours of education and care available under the test to all other vulnerable Australian children 
  2. Investing in infrastructure to reduce ‘childcare deserts’ in Australian suburbs and regions 
  3. Co-funding fair wages for the ECEC workforce.  


The three key actions form the core of ELAA’s 2023-24 pre-Budget Submission to the Australian Government. 


ELAA CEO David Worland said the evidence on the value of children having access to high-quality ECEC is clear, and that, should the recommended changes be enforced, Australia will benefit from the resulting reduced government expenditure, higher parental workforce participation, and importantly, improved school results leading to a workforce capable of managing the demands of the future.


A fairer Activity Test 


ELAA proposes that the Activity Test should be removed entirely for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, given research demonstrates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are twice as likely as non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be developmentally vulnerable.


“We also want to see the additional hours of care available under the Test extended to at least two days a week for other vulnerable Australians like families who work casually and are unable to predict their work hours in advance. We know these families cannot afford more hours of care if they’re not subsidised,” he added.


Fairer infrastructure investment 


With 35 per cent of Australians living in regions that the Mitchell Institute has referred to as ‘childcare deserts’, ELAA is asking the Australian Government to budget to address access to ECEC, based on location, infrastructure needs and workforce supply. 


This, Mr Worland said, would be a fundamental step in allowing children in affected areas to receive quality early education and care and ensure that they are not falling behind in their development.   


“A boost in ECEC infrastructure and workforce will also translate into a boost in female employment, especially considering that ECEC is made up of a majority female workforce (over 92.1 per cent),” he added.


Fairer wages 


The workforce shortage crisis in the ECEC sector remains an ongoing issue, and ELAA believes that paying wages on parity with schools would help remediate the crisis. However, this is not possible without services increasing their fees and that would mean costs would be passed on to parents already struggling with soaring costs of living. 


“Victoria could offer a solution here,” Mr Worland shared. “The Victorian State Government subsidises wages for kindergarten teachers covered by the Victorian Early Childhood Teachers and Educators Agreement 2020 (VECTEA). 


“This means that staff in a service with the same qualification can earn tens of thousands of dollars more if they teach in a state government funded kindergarten room than if they teach in the adjacent Commonwealth funded toddler room.”


To illustrate, experienced full-time teachers in Victorian sessional kindergarten can earn more than $100,000 per annum under the VECTEA, compared to wages between $63,000 and $88,000 under the Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2020


“To address the workforce crisis and to maintain the quality of care provided within not-for-profit ECEC services, we encourage consideration in the 2023-2024 budget for the Federal Government to co-fund wages similarly to the Victorian State Government,” Mr Worland said. 


“We urge the Albanese Government to address the policy priorities outlined in our pre-Budget submission to ensure a better future for all Australian children.” 

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