Labor jumps on early childhood bandwagon
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony today welcomed Labor finally joining the discussion on how to give children the best start in life through the release of the paper Growing Up – Investing in the Early Years.
“Early childhood development is an area of key interest to the Coalition and it is way out in front of the opposition here. We set the precedent after the last election by creating the first ever Ministry for Children and Youth Affairs,” Mr Anthony said.
“Over the last year I have been working closely with experts like 2003 Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Stanley (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth), Professor Frank Oberklaid (Centre for Community Child Health) and Professor Graham Vimpani (National Investment for the Early Years) on how best to tackle the challenges in this area.
“On 22 September 2002 I announced Cabinet’s approval to develop a National Early Childhood Agenda.
“For the first time the National Agenda will provide a whole of government approach for future investment in early childhood. I will be working closely with a number of my ministerial colleagues to make sure we have a consistent, coordinated approach.”
The Agenda will initially focus on three key areas:
- Early child and maternal health (eg. improving prenatal and postnatal care);
- Early learning and care; (eg. coherent care arrangements, successful transition to school);
- Supporting child friendly communities (eg. links between services, safe environments).
Mr Anthony said State and Territory governments also had an important role to play, particularly as they have responsibility for child protection, foster care and preschools where there have been few funding increases to date. State, Territory and local governments and non-government organisations will be consulted with to identify areas that we can work together on.
“I will be releasing a framework paper on the Agenda for consultation in the next few weeks,” Mr Anthony said.
“In addition to the Agenda, the Coalition is committed to supporting children and families through child care. Funding for child care is at record levels – over $8 billion has been allocated for child care over 4 years (2002-03 to 2005-06) and a record 720,000 children are using Commonwealth funded child care. Under Labor there were around 310,000 child care places overall. There are now around 500,000 places – a 61 per cent increase.
“It is good to see that Labor is at least trying to be constructive in this crucial area and is recognising how vital the early years are in our children’s lives.
“Labor’s paper endorses many of the points I have made on improving outcomes for young children, and I look forward to their support for the Coalition’s National Agenda for Early Childhood,” Mr Anthony said.