Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

New vision for early childhood services in Australia

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today released a new report calling for a national vision and a framework to improve early childhood services in Australia.

“The “Beyond 2001–Child Care for Australia” report shows that early childhood services are fragmented,” Senator Vanstone said.

“Child care gets a massive investment through the Federal Government’s Child Care Benefit, however child health services and preschools are a state government responsibility.

“It is clear that the Federal Government has to take a lead in early childhood policy so that we get a more organised system. I am happy to accept this fundamental responsibility.

“The report argues that we need a national framework for early childhood services that recognises the importance of children’s early years as a foundation for life.

We need to improve the status and standing of children and their carers. The best interests of children should be a central focus of Australian society.

“We need to look at ways to improve staff retention and training to support the highest possible quality of child care service in Australia.

“We need to improve access for those who most need early childhood education and care, including children at risk and those with additional needs.

“I congratulate the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council, and in particular the Chair Ms Patrice Marriott, for the two years of hard work that they put into the report.

“Child care is profoundly important to Australia’s future. Sensible and effective child care is one line of defence against falling fertility. With more sole parents working and more two income households, effective child care services are critical.

“We will support child care with $6 billion in the next four years. We need to ensure that we maximise the benefits for children from this investment in child care.

“The need for a more co-ordinated system is also supported by a number of other organisations, including the recently formed Australian Council on Children and Parenting and the National Investment in the Early Years network.

“Now is the time for all levels of Government to look at this issue and work together to provide Australian families and their children with the level of service and support that they expect and deserve.

“This challenge we face has the support of many Australians who care about our future, and who understand the importance of our young children to the quality of that future. The challenge goes well beyond child care, families need better linked services for their children’s health and education as well as for care.”