Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Early childhood experts join forces

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, today officially opened the first Early Childhood Systems National Meeting in Melbourne, where experts from across Australia will share their ideas on early childhood intervention.

“While Australian children in general are doing very well by international standards, there are certainly some areas where we can improve outcomes for our kids.

“There is compelling evidence on the importance of investing in the early years of a child’s life. The links between what happens to children when they are young and their future wellbeing are undeniable,” Mr Anthony said.

Professor Frank Oberklaid of the Centre of Community Child Health and Coordinator of this meeting, said, “it is unique to bring together politicians, policy makers, researchers and service providers from across the country and is a measure of how critical the area of early childhood is to the future of our country.”

“I recently announced that the Coalition Government is developing a National Agenda for Early Childhood to provide directions for a whole of Government approach to investment in early childhood,” Mr Anthony said.

“The National Agenda will focus on early child and maternal health, early learning and care and supporting child-friendly communities.

“We know that there is a lot happening already around the nation in early childhood, but we need to identify what is working well, where there are gaps, and how we can co-ordinate service delivery to maximise the benefits to all Australian children.

“The Government will be undertaking further consultation on the National Agenda in the early part of 2003 and we hope to achieve a plan identifying opportunities for coordinated policy and program delivery, and enabling new and collaborative approaches.

“Early childhood development and experiences affect educational outcomes, career prospects, health outcomes, avoiding reliance on welfare, substance misuse, and becoming entangled in the criminal justice system.

“These outcomes are significant to all individuals, their families and communities. If we can give our children a better start, we all stand to benefit.

“This meeting is an opportunity for key players to consider some of these issues and provide input to the Government’s development of the National Agenda for Early Childhood,” Mr Anthony said.