Speech by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Presentation of the Category 3 and Gold Awards for excellence in the early years

Location: Radisson Playford Hotel, Adelaide


My Ministerial colleagues,

  • The Hon Lea Stevens (Minister for Health)
  • Mr Steve Marshall, CEO of Education and Children’s Services, representing The Hon Trish White
  • Dr Elizabeth Puddy (Chair of Board, NIFTEY)
  • Distinguished guests
  • Ladies and gentlemenThank you, Mike O’Reilly, for your introduction.

I am delighted to be here in Adelaide this evening as part of this important awards presentation.

Congratulations to everyone involved, especially NIFTEY, Robin Waller and the organising committee, for ensuring that this event and the conference run smoothly.

I would like to start by sharing a quote with you from the poet Gabriel Mistral. This quote encapsulates for me how important our children are to our society and why we must focus our attention on what is happening to them in the first years of life:

“Many things we need can wait, the child cannot. Now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, his mind is being developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today.”

As I look around the room tonight, I am sure you all share my view that the first few years of a child’s life are critical. We’ve all seen plenty of evidence about what positive childhood experiences can mean for young children.

We know, too of the lasting impacts that negative experiences can have on their chances of reaching their full potential over the course of their lives.

We also know that investment in children provides a high rate of future return.

Studies in the United States have shown that each dollar invested in supporting families up-front has the potential to save up to seven dollars on policing, health and welfare in the future.

From a Government perspective, it therefore makes good sense to respond to the evidence by ‘investing’ in early childhood.

Tonight’s awards also acknowledge and highlight the importance of the early years.

I’m pleased to say that in recent times, we have seen a growing interest in the early years, which has spread to all levels of government, especially when it comes to links with wider economic and social goals.

NIFTEY deserves a great deal of credit here. NIFTEY has been a driving force in calling for early childhood to be on the political agenda and for commitments from governments to make this a priority issue. NIFTEY has been one organisation urging us to work cooperatively with other interested parties to improve children’s health, well-being and future opportunities.

I am extremely proud to be able to say that this is happening. The Prime Minister has confirmed that early childhood is a priority issue over this term of government.

I am also pleased to be able to say that development of a National Agenda for Early Childhood has bi-partisan support across the political spectrum. This is a great achievement. While there may be differences over the detail about what a National Agenda might look like , it is wonderful to know that there is agreement about the need for an Agenda.

Since releasing the consultation paper on the development of a National Agenda for Early Childhood, I have attended several meetings and heard from a number of people who have experience and ideas they want to contribute to the discussion. I am very pleased with the progress we’re making in gathering views during this crucial discussion period, and I want to emphasise my hope that all of you will be contributing to that process and that discussion in some way.

Getting the national agenda right is not going to be easy.

But I believe it’s achievable if we work hard on it together as a joint effort between governments, communities, business, professionals, teachers, early childhood professionals, academics, and, of course, parents themselves.

The themes of this conference – RESPECT, CONNECT, REFLECT – have a very strong application to that process. We come together with a common purpose, bringing our own experiences and perceptions, respecting each other’s ideas and building a platform that reflects our shared ideas about what we can all do for Australia’s children.

Tonight’s Awards showcase excellence in early childhood. They recognise the creativity, skills, hard work and commitment of a small number of very special people and organizations.

But to me, the awards also symbolise and pay tribute to the hard work of thousands of others involved in children’s issues whose efforts often go unheralded.

My congratulations go to the many Award nominees, and, of course, the winners. You deserve our admiration, our respect and our heartfelt thanks for your achievements.

I hope you all have a wonderful evening.