Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Government committed record funding to early childhood

Labor’s claims that the Australian Government has not committed any funding to early childhood development and the National Agenda for early Childhood are wrong, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony said today.

“Labor’s actual policies in the area of early childhood development are paltry compared to what the Government has already put on the ground.

“Mr Swan and Senator Collins have conveniently forgotten the Prime Minister’s announcement last April of the refocussed $365 million Stronger Families and Communities Strategy.

“This strategy is providing unprecedented levels of funding that will provide better opportunities for thousands of Australian children and families through innovative and grassroots projects such as:

  • Communities for Children ($110 million over four years) targeting up to 35 disadvantaged communities providing funding of up to $4 million for local early childhood initiatives and
  • Early Childhood – Invest to Grow ($70.5 million over four years) that is providing funding for national early childhood programs and resources.

“They have also forgotten about the $10 million of early childhood initiatives announced in May 2003 including $1 million to extend the Australians Against Child Abuse campaign Every Child Is Important and $2.9 million to develop 19 child care centres as neighbourhood hubs.

“There is also the $20 million Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and the $8.6 million Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children. These studies will provide the evidence base for improving children’s outcomes in the future.

“We have also committed $900,000 to developing an Australian Early Development Index (EDI). The EDI was developed in Canada as a population-based measure of how children have fared prior to school which helps to highlight gaps that might exist in the social supports for families in a given area. The first 10 communities to use the EDI will be announced soon.

“Of course, the Australian Government’s main role in early childhood development is providing child care. This Government has delivered record numbers of places and funding – more than any other Government. We have also committed a record $8.5 million for the next 4 years.

“Getting the states and territories to agree to a framework for a National Agenda for Early Childhood will underpin all governments future policies and programs in this area. Labor’s criticism of the National Agenda is short-sighted and is an attempt to score cheap political points. In contrast, the Labor state and territory governments are working with us on this Agenda.

“Labor has put no concrete plan on the table for early childhood development. Their only policy, Read Aloud Australia, is untargeted and gimmicky. This is in stark contrast to the Australian Governments programs that are making a real difference,” Mr Anthony said.