Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Future directions for child care

For child care workers to be valued, child care needs to be seen as more than just baby sitting Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony said today.

Mr Anthony was outlining the first steps of the Government’s response to the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council’s report, Child Care: Beyond 2001 at the inaugural meeting of the Child Care Reference Group, the new child care peak body.

Child Care: Beyond 2001 offers a detailed and comprehensive vision of Australia’s children’s services now and into the future. It was based on two years of extensive research and consultation with the child care sector. I thank Patrice Marriott and the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council for their work over the past three years.

“The report called on the Federal Government to develop a national plan of action for children. Yesterday, I announced that we will develop a National Agenda for Early Childhood. The Agenda will focus on early child and maternal health, early learning and care and supporting child-friendly communities.

“This is an important development that will provide direction and a basis for future investment in early childhood. It also builds on the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and Professor Stanley’s new Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, both have been funded by the Government.

“Another key issue raised in the report is the lack of value that is placed on people working in the children’s services sector. Some people believe child care workers are just baby sitters. They are not.

“It is important that parents and the community recognise and acknowledge the role child care workers play in fostering the early learning and development of children in their care. Pay and conditions, attracting and retaining qualified staff are issues fundamental to the status of workers and the future of the child care profession.

“The Government is already working cooperatively with State and Territory Governments through the Community Services Ministers Advisory Council to develop a consistent national approach to workforce issues in children’s services.

“In addition to this, I will convene a ‘Think Tank’ in the coming months to develop concrete strategies for taking forward the work force issues and recommendations set out in the report.

“The ‘Think Tank’ will involve the States and Territories, relevant Commonwealth agencies, representatives from the child care sector and education and training providers for child care workers.”

Mr Anthony also announced that he will examine the current funding arrangements the Commonwealth provides, other than Child Care Benefit, for child care services and support services known as the Child Care Support Broadband.

“There has never been a comprehensive and consultative assessment of the Child Care Support Broadband’s overall direction. There is room to create flexibility so we can deliver key priorities and implement further report recommendations down the track.

“I have appointed a Taskforce in my Department to carry out the examination. The Taskforce will recommend to me how we can use the Child Care Support Broadband to preserve and better use the unique features of Australian child care. I have asked the Taskforce to work closely with the Child Care Reference Group and to ensure there is full consultation with the child care sector.

“These steps address some major issues confronting the child care sector. I look forward to working with the child care sector towards the ongoing implementation of the Child Care: Beyond 2001 report.

“The Coalition Government has made child care more accessible and affordable for families through unprecedented levels of funding. We have committed a record $8 billion for the next four years,” Mr Anthony said.