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Speech by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

National Investment For the Early Years 2005 Awards For Exellence in Early Years

Location: National Wine Centre, Adelaide, SA

E&OE

  • My State parliamentary colleagues
  • Anne Glover AO, President NIFTEY SA
  • Ms Stephanie Page, Executive Director, Early Childhood Services, Department of Education and Children’s Services
  • Members of the NIFTEY (SA) Committee
  • Award judges and sponsors
  • Award nominees
  • Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you Stephanie.

I am delighted to be here tonight for the National Investment for Early Years (SA) 2005 Awards for Excellence in Early Years.

These awards recognise the efforts of individuals, community groups and organisations who make a very real and lasting difference to the lives of young children and their families.

And as we will see, their achievements have been outstanding.

May I congratulate everyone involved for their contribution in delivering services and support to young children, families and communities across South Australia.

The Australian Government is once again pleased to be sponsoring these awards and supporting the Our Children the Future 4 conference this week

Such events, not only recognise excellence, but also raise awareness about the issues that concern us all.

Ensuring that children are given the best possible start in life and chance of a good outcome is a priority for us all

And we all know the importance of the early years in relation to children’s outcomes

The key word tonight is “investment” and to that end the Australian Government is strongly committed to investing in the future of our children and the future of our nation.

And that is why we are investing in Australia’s first National Agenda for Early Childhood.

This is a whole-of-Government approach and has an early intervention and prevention focus.

The National Agenda is designed to integrate better children and family support services.

This includes child care, pre-schools, relationship services, and public health.

We need to build the Agenda, now and in future years, on a solid evidence base.

Our landmark $20 million longitudinal study – ‘Growing Up in Australia’ – is the most important piece of research ever undertaken into Australian children.

The study is gathering Australia-wide data on all the components of a child’s life – their experiences within their families and communities, their childcare, their health, and their early years of education.

Establishing what goes right and what goes wrong for children as they develop will make an enormous difference in making sure our future policies are more targeted, effective and practical.

In keeping with the Government’s commitment to the National Agenda for Early Childhood, the Australian Early Development Index (EDI) project is designed to tell us just how well Australian children are faring in the early years.

Australian Early Development Index involves

  • Funding of $900, 000 over three years
  • Will involve 60 communities
  • Include more than 420 schools
  • Include 12 500 children across the country

This is an Australian adaptation of a Canadian index, which includes a teacher completed checklist of over 100 questions about various areas of a child’s development.

Teachers complete the checklist on children in the first year of school.

The data gathered will allow communities to better understand where children are doing well and identify the areas where more community support may be needed.

And the fantastic thing is that local communities are putting up their hands to be involved in this project.

Talking about communities, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly tell you about some great work underway in South Australia.

As many of you will be aware, around $13.5 million has been allocated to the state under the Communities for Children initiative.

Five community-based projects will be funded in North-Western Adelaide, Onkaparinga, Port Augusta, Salisbury and the Murray Bridge Area.

And what has really struck me about the Communities for Children projects across Australia is again the scale of community support for these initiatives.

People from all walks of life are giving their time and expertise to making the places they live in more child and family friendly.

It is very inspiring and I am optimistic that these projects will produce positive and sustainable outcomes.

The importance of positive and stimulating environments for young children is well appreciated by the Australian Government. This is also why we fund playgroups.

As you would know Playgroups give children the opportunity to develop early learning and social skills which encourage their future learning.

Playgroups also give parents the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge, and gain valuable social and support networks which often leads to their continuing participation in local community activities.

Last week I would like to announced nearly $1.1 million to provide further assistance to playgroups.

This included funding to playgroups associations including Playgroup SA for capacity building.

We do recognise that some families may need additional support.

The Australian Government funds Intensive Support Playgroups which are delivered by a team of early childhood and family support workers.

They provide ongoing assistance to families across a range of areas including housing, domestic violence, and financial crisis.

Today I announced an extension of an intensive supported playgroup run by Centacare SA.

This mobile playgroup services areas such as caravan parks to support families most at need. It is a fantastic program and has shown very good outcomes.

May I take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone here, to thank Anne Glover and her dedicated team at NIFTEY for the fantastic work they have done in South Australia.

Your efforts are greatly appreciated by us all.

I look forward to helping present the awards and hearing about the great work that is being recognised here tonight.

I hope you all have a wonderful evening.