Senate Committee Report calls for ECEC system change
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Senate Committee Report calls for ECEC system change

by Jason Roberts

March 13, 2023

The Senate Select Committee on Work and Care has released its final report in which a series of recommendations targeted at reforming the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector were presented against a broader vision of rebalancing Australian society towards a new social contract “one appropriate to the 21st century.”


The Committee, which consists of seven members from across the major political parties, was convened to report on a range of matters including the adequacy of workplace laws in relation to work and care and other relevant policies across workplaces and society including those impacting ECEC.


The recommendations presented were broad ranging and comprehensive, designed to address a  number of fundamental shortfalls of the current system, including access, affordability and wages. 


Although it is unlikely that the recommendations in their current form will find themselves implemented, the timing of their release, just as the Productivity Commission and ACCC Inquiries into the ECEC system commence, is significant and will add additional momentum to calls for transformation to occur. 


The key highlights of recommendations of direct relevance to the ECEC sector are as follows:


1. Recommendation to develop and progress a new ECEC framework 


The committee recommends the National Cabinet develop a framework to progress the implementation of a universal, quality, place-based and child-centred ECEC system that increases access to quality ECEC and lowers costs. 


2. Recommendation to remove Child Care Subsidy Activity Test 


The committee recommended the Australian Government consider amending the relevant social policy and family assistance laws to abolish activity tests used to determine eligibility to the Child Care Subsidy funding for families. 


3. Recommendation for Government to fund Award wage increases for educators 


The committee recommended that the Australian Government should consider mechanisms to fund and implement any award wage increases and improved conditions changes agreed to by the Fair Work Commission as part of priority applications. 


4. Recommendation to consider the role, and operation, of markets in the ECEC sector


The committee recommended that the operation of markets in the ECEC and other care based sectors be considered and that the effectiveness of current models of provision (including profit and not-for-profit models) in delivering quality care and addressing provision in thin markets be examined.


5. Recommendation to build 100 new publicly owned ECEC centres 


The committee recommends the Australian Government consider the provision of a further 100 publicly owned ECEC centres, in areas identified as ‘childcare deserts’ and/or as having unmet demand. 


6. Recommendation for training programs to assist informal carers return to work


The committee recommends a large-scale, evidence-based, appropriately evaluated, holistic, non-compulsory training and work placement program is developed, to assist informal carers returning to or seeking further engagement with paid employment, training or voluntary work. 


7. Recommendation to extend the Preschool Reform Agreement


The committee recommends an inquiry into ways to extend the Preschool Reform Agreement to both three and four year olds and that the hours of subsidised care provided be increased, to between 15 hours a week (600 hours a year) and 30 hours a week (1200 hours a year).


8. Calls to immediately review the Inclusion Support Program 


The committee called for an immediate review of the Inclusion Support Program and to consider appropriate action including the commitment of additional funding of the program, with a view to provide extra support to children who have additional needs to participate in ECEC. 


As part of the Committee’s consultations and research a wide range of ECEC focused institutions submitted documents and information with a number of representatives from key sector stakeholders also appearing to provide testimony to the senate. 


An abbreviated list of contributors were as follows:


Submitting organisations


The Parenthood*

Minderoo Foundation*

Department of Education*

Early Childhood Australia*

Community Child Care Association

The Front Project

Community Child Care Association, Community Early Learning Australia* and

Early Learning Association Australia

G8 Education Limited

Goodstart Early Learning*


*refers to organisations that also had representatives participate in public hearings and included the Australian Childcare Alliance. 


To read the final report please visit the website here. 

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