Positive responses to Government’s 10 year plan for early learning
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Positive responses to Government’s 10 year plan for early learning

by Freya Lucas

May 08, 2024

Representatives from early childhood education and care (ECEC) advocacy organisations have responded to yesterday’s announcement by the Federal Government of the creation of a ten year plan for early learning designed to remove ‘silo’ thinking. 


The ten year roadmap outlines an overarching vision for Australia’s children, along with clear goals to ensure those birth – five years of age and their families can grow, learn and thrive. 


Central to the roadmap is an understanding of the need for better integration and coordination between the policies, funding and programs which serve children and families, removing ‘silos’ and taking a more collaborative approach. 


Removes fragmentation


For the Minderoo Foundation’s Jay Weatherill, this strategy is “a much-needed, positive step in the right direction,” one which he believes “lays the groundwork for developing a truly universal, accessible and affordable early childhood education system in Australia.”


“Australia’s current approach to the early years is deeply fragmented and varies greatly across states and territories,” Mr Weatherill said.


“By outlining a vision and framework for developing a more nationally consistent early years system, the Federal Government’s Early Years Strategy helps address this challenge.”


“The strategy rightly recognises the vital importance of access to high-quality care in the early years and how it can help set children up for lifelong success,” he added.


First Nations voices prominent 


Catherine Liddle, CEO of SNAICC, said the National Framework “marks a fundamental shift in national policy,” particularly as it relates to child protection. 


“It recognises the right to self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and was developed through a co-design process with SNAICC and a national leadership group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family sector experts,” she explained.


Ms Liddle believes the Framework will be critical to achieving Target 12 in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, to reduce the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent by 2031.


“The plan acknowledges what we have often heard from our services, practitioners and people on the ground – that to change the way we do things at a systems-level, we must have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices at the table,” she said. 


Key pillars


The Early Years Strategy focuses on four key priority pillars including:


  • Valuing the early years;
  • Empowering parents, caregivers and families;
  • Supporting and working with communities; and
  • Strengthening accountability and coordination


Over this year, the Federal Government will also release three action plans as a part of the strategy which will outline a ten-year roadmap towards achieving a nationally consistent early years system.


Children’s voices


National enterprise The Front Project welcomed the launch of the Strategy, and the Government’s recognition of the critical role of the Early Years in children’s development and long-term success.


The Front Project contributed to the Strategy through a children’s voices project, commissioned by the Department of Social Services, which sought to understand how children in Australia experience the world around them, hearing from 115 children aged 3-5 years from diverse backgrounds and locations nationwide. 


The children shared key insights including they deeply value the people in their lives and appreciate the multiple communities to which they belong, as well as greatly influenced by the places and spaces they play in and learn from. This invaluable information was carefully gathered and fed into the development of the Early Years Strategy.


Reflecting on the impact of children’s voices in policymaking, CEO of the Front Project, Dr Caroline Croser-Barlow emphasised that, “our research demonstrates that children have vital contributions to make when policymakers are grappling with big-picture thinking with direct implications on their lives – such as the Early Years Strategy.”


“It’s encouraging to see the strategy’s commitment to elevating children and family perspectives. The Australian Government’s pledge to observe, listen, and engage directly with children and families reflects a crucial step towards amplifying their voices. We eagerly anticipate the implementation of this approach, starting with the first Action Plan,” Dr Croser-Barlow said.


Minister for Children and Young People


For the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), who also played a key role in shaping this strategy through serving on the Advisory Panel, one of the most exciting elements of the Strategy is the proposal to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People, a move which Acting CEO Roslyn Dundas said “would be an amazing and important step towards breaking down old silos, and really centreing children.” 


“Children need an internal advocate who will always put them first when it comes to Federal Government policy, programming and funding,” she outlined, adding “if we as a nation can ensure a good start in life for our children, the benefits will be immense.”


“We’ll be watching closely on Budget night to see if the Government is serious about investing in our future.”


Learn more about the Strategy here

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