ECEC sector responds to Federal Budget announcement
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > ECEC sector responds to Federal Budget announcement

ECEC sector responds to Federal Budget announcement

by Freya Lucas

May 10, 2023

Peak bodies and advocates from the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector have responded to last night’s Federal Budget that outlined additional workforce and accessibility-related measures to be funded through the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) reform savings as opposed to additional funding allocations. 


Respondents include the Australian Catholic University (ACU), Early Childhood Australia (ECA), The Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA), the Community Child Care Association (CCC), and Community Early Learning Australia (CELA), with the overall consensus being that while the Budget features several positive initiatives for the ECEC sector, more needs to be done to deliver better wages and professional recognition for early childhood educators.


Taking a positive lens, respondents acknowledged that the investment made by the Government in this year’s Budget will increase access, improve quality and reduce costs for millions of families.


Along with reduced out of pocket costs through the Government’s Cheaper Child Care policy, children and families in rural and remote communities will have greater access to services through the $18 million Community Child Care Fund


Increased availability and accessibility 


The Community Child Care Fund provision was especially welcomed by CELA CEO Michele Carnegie who said that “thousands of children are currently missing out on the benefits of education and care because there are simply no services where they live or there aren’t enough places available in existing services.


“Every child deserves access to high quality education and care. Today’s budget will contribute towards making it possible for children and families to get the care they need, regardless of where they live,” she added. 


More money for professional learning 


ACU’s Executive Dean of Education and Arts Professor Mary Ryan welcomed the Federal Budget’s measures to boost the qualifications and experiences of early childhood professionals. She said that the funding, which includes $33.1 million to support up to 6,000 early childhood educators to complete paid practicums in initial teacher education courses at a Bachelor or postgraduate level, would help the ECEC workforce to upskill.


ELACCA CEO Elizabeth Death agreed, saying ELACCA is “very supportive” of the  $72.4m skills and training package which responds directly to its evidence about the key challenges that prevent early childhood educators from undertaking further professional development. 


The investment, she continued, will uplift and build capacity in the sector, “at a time when it is most needed”. 


CCC Executive Director Julie Price echoed their sentiments, saying investments in access for children and families must be matched by investments in the early education and care workforce. 


“Along with improving quality, this investment will also be an immediate boost to support workforce attraction and retention at a time when it is desperately needed,” she added. 


Access and affordability concerns


ECA remains concerned that an increase in the rate of the CCS, without a complementary measure to increase the number of hours available to families with low incomes and less than 16 hours of work, study or training will exacerbate existing inequity and widen attainment gaps for children in families with low income/insecure work.


“The Government has signalled a commitment to delivering the best possible outcomes for Australian children through the development of the Early Years Strategy, the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Universal Early Childhood Education and Care as well as the ACCC Inquiry into affordability and cost,” CEO Samantha Page said. “However, if we wait for these processes to conclude, a cohort of children will miss out on early education. Removing the Child Care Subsidy Activity Test would make an immediate difference to children’s access while also enabling more parents to work.”


Professional wages plea


While skills and training initiatives make some progress towards addressing serious workforce shortages, lack of movement on wages is a critical missing step, Ms Page continued, noting the fully funded 15 per cent wage increases for the Aged Care sector.


“ECA urges the government to commit to and fund better wages for the early childhood profession as a critical measure for the workforce,” she continued.


“To deliver the Government’s vision for Australian children and families, we need a well-supported and thriving professional workforce. Action is needed to address poor wages in the ECEC sector to enable it to deliver the government’s promise of more affordable and accessible early education for children and families.”


Ms Death agreed, saying “while (ELACCA) applauds investment provided by the Budget, we must not lose sight of the most urgent element of workforce attraction and retention, and that is the partnership and investment between government and the sector to support a much-needed uplift of wages for the early learning and care workforce.”


Workforce shortages


Workforce shortages are placing increasing pressure on all parts of the early learning and care sector, Ms Death noted, saying thousands of qualified early learning educators and teachers are needed to meet existing vacancies across the country. 


“Unless we address these staffing shortfalls, more children will continue to be unable to access early learning at their most critical period of development. This, of course, directly impacts the workforce participation of many parents and carers, particularly women.” 


To learn more about the Budget and what it means for ECEC, please see here. Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) Acting CEO Megan O’Connell shares her thoughts on the Budget here

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