ECEC sector responds to Budget 2024/25
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > ECEC sector responds to Budget 2024/25

ECEC sector responds to Budget 2024/25

by Freya Lucas

May 15, 2024

Peak bodies and advocacy organisations representing the interests of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector have welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to funding wage increases for early childhood educators as part of a broader focus on improving wages in the broader ‘care sector’. 


Early Childhood Australia (ECA), the United Workers Union (UWU), the The Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA), HESTA, The Australian Education Union (AEU), The Front Project and SNAICC, National Voice for our Children had all submitted comments at time of press. 


Educator wage commitment 


The decision to have a government funded boost to the wages of early childhood educators was universally welcomed by respondents. 


While there is a lack of detail in the Budget papers about how and when the wage boost will be delivered, and how much the increase will be, a wages decision by the Fair Work Commission is anticipated in June, and details should become clear soon after that. 


ELACCA CEO Elizabeth Death congratulated Treasurer Jim Chalmers, Minister Clare and Minister Aly on “this vital investment in a qualified, highly-valued early learning and care workforce.”


“We know that award wage rates have hampered efforts to attract and retain our workforce for many years. We also know that our workforce is highly feminised, and a lift in wages is a step towards gender equity,” she added.


“Sector leaders have come together in good faith to chart a pathway for wage increases, and it is promising to have a firm commitment from the Government,” ECA CEO Samantha Page said.


“We look forward to this progressing as quickly as possible.”


“In committing to a wage increase for early educators, the desperately-needed wage rise will address a workforce crisis in which workers, families and children are all suffering,” United Workers Union Early Education Director Carolyn Smith added.


“This wage rise is about a group of workers who have been undervalued for decades, yet they provide the social, emotional and educational building blocks for Australia’s next generation.”


Finally, HESTA CEO  Debby Blakey welcomed the Budget as being a boost for women, adding “HESTA members are mainly women who spend their lives providing critical care for communities in typically lower-paid roles such as nurses, midwives and aged care and early childhood education professionals, and often take unpaid time away from work to look after others.” 


“These professionals already face significant hurdles in achieving financial security in retirement, so it’s encouraging to see this year’s Budget provide targeted cost-of-living relief and support for many of our members.”


Commitments to First Nations Children 


SNAICC welcomed additional early years funding announced in the Federal Budget that will support efforts to close the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, along with the Budget’s general focus on education, with initiatives targeted towards new policy developments and program delivery.


“SNAICC is receiving dedicated funding for the first time, as is our sister peak, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Corporation (NATSIEC),” SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said.


“A total of $29.1 million over 4 years, with $8.7 million per year ongoing, is earmarked for SNAICC and NATSIEC to partner with the Government on issues impacting our children in early childhood and education.”


“This will give us important ongoing stability, enabling us to continue bringing the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to the development of policies and programs that affect them.”


While welcoming new funding, SNAICC expressed concern that some important early childhood initiatives, such as the Early Years Support Program were not mentioned. 


“We are also disappointed that the Government has missed key opportunities to change the way they do business with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations through investing in Aboriginal-led decision-making and partnerships,” Ms Liddle added.


“This was a key recommendation of the Productivity Commission’s review into the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. As an example, investment of $14.3 million in line with the Early Years Strategy does not make any mention of allocating a proportion of this money for ACCOs.”


Activity Test critique

A number of respondents commented on the failure to remove or amend the current Activity Test to deliver more equitable access for children at risk of missing out and families paying too much.


“ECA is disappointed that despite strong sector support and multiple reports criticising its regressive impact, the Government has instead chosen to wait until after receiving the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Universal Early Childhood Education and Care before deciding on equity reforms,” Ms Page said. 


The Front Project described the absence of movement in this space as “striking” saying that this lack of momentum “continues to have a detrimental effect on limiting families’ access to ECEC.”


“Abolishing or reviewing the activity test remains one of the single biggest levers to boost equity in the system and would enable around 126,000 children experiencing disadvantage to access the life-long benefits of quality ECEC,” CEO, Dr Caroline Croser-Barlow said.


Inclusion support   


The Government used the Budget to respond to calls by many in the sector to bolster inclusion support, responding to significant demand, with an additional $98.4 million allocated in the Budget for the Inclusion Support Program (ISP) to help ECEC services increase their capacity to support the inclusion of children with additional needs in the 2024–25 financial year.


Continuation of ISP funding to 30 June 2025 is “a welcome feature of the Budget, providing certainty for the early learning sector while the future shape of inclusion policy is being determined, in conjunction with National Disability Insurance Scheme reforms,” Ms Page said. 


Educator professional development


Many respondents noted that the inclusion of a Paid Practicum Subsidy and a Professional Development Subsidy for early childhood educators was both welcomed and needed. 


Amid rising cost-of-living pressures, The Front Project noted its support for the Budget commitment to establish a Commonwealth Prac Payment for student teacher placements starting July 2025. 


This, Dr Croser-Barlow said, is an important and practical step that will support emerging early childhood teachers to undertake their placements, reducing financial pressures during mandatory unpaid placements.


AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe highlighted the additional funding provision to support TAFE, saying it will be welcomed by AEU members. 


“TAFE is at the heart of a future made in Australia and this funding will enable more Australians to access vocational education,” she said.


“This funding along with the National Skills Agreement, establishment of Jobs and Skills Australia and the VET Workforce Blueprint Strategy brings to life the Albanese Government’s commitment to rebuild the capacity of TAFE.”


For an analysis of last night’s Budget announcement, contextualised to ECEC, please see here

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