Remarks at ABC learning Brisbane central

Speech
  • Minister for Child Care
  • Minister for Employment Participation

It is great to be here today at Brisbane Central because today is a very significant day for parents, educators and of course children in care across the country.

I’m very pleased to announce the agreement of all State and Territory Governments to Australia’s first truly national regulatory system for early childhood education and care services.

This is a significant milestone in implementing COAG’s reform agenda to boost quality and transparency in Australian child care centres.

The development of the national regulations has been a cooperative effort between state and territory governments and the sector—and I would like to acknowledge all involved.

I know all of us here agree our children deserve the best start in life and that is what these regulations are all about.

The quality of the experiences a child has in their first crucial years has a profound influence on their future wellbeing.

More than 800 000 children spend time in early childhood education and care services throughout Australia each week.

That number continues to grow as more parents are placing their children into care, so that they can balance work and study with time at home with their family.

And with more children than ever before being enrolled in early childhood education and care, those critical early experiences are being increasingly shaped by their child care experiences.

The regulations that all states and territories have signed up to today, will mean that parents can now have confidence that no matter where they live and no matter what child care centre their child is attending – they will be receiving an appropriate standard of care.

These harmonised regulations will give parents the peace of mind that when they drop their kids off at care in the morning, that they will be safe, well looked after and will have a quality early education.

This is not about radical change.

I know we’ve seen newspaper reports in the past that contain wild claims of stopping Easter Egg hunts and banning the naughty corner.

Of course, none of this is the case.

This is about common sense and it is about recognising that what is good for children in Victoria is good for children in Queensland.

Federal, State and Territory Governments know how hard early childhood educators work and we know that they are skilled individuals and that’s why we’re taking a common sense approach to these regulations.

What these regulations are actually about is, for the very first time, taking a truly national approach to child care quality and supporting services by reducing red tape so that they only have to deal with one set of rules at a time.

Beyond the regulations approved today, the National Quality Framework will improve educator-to-child ratios so that each child gets the individual time and attention they need.

It will also introduce educator qualification requirements so educators are better able to lead activities that inspire youngsters and help them learn and develop.

And it will include a new ratings system so parents can make informed choices based on the quality of care on offer.

The National Quality Framework commences on 1 January 2012. However, we’ll be putting these changes in place gradually so that providers across Australia have time to get ready for the new requirements.

I know though that many services like Brisbane Central have already started making some of these changes in preparation for next year. The ratio of 1:4 for babies is already in operation here.

Of course words alone don’t nurture children: people do, whether parents, kindergarten teachers and educators—like those in this room.

So the people nurturing our children need to be properly skilled and prepared.

We know that people working in early childhood need access to information and support in implementing these changes.

At the consultations the Government held on the National Quality Framework last year and earlier this year, some of you raised concerns about availability of this information and, as we have throughout this process, we listened.

I am happy to announce today that the Australian Government is investing some $2 million to print and distribute a suite of support materials. The Australian Children’s Education and Care Authority will be releasing this information in the next two weeks.

Along with information sessions in states and territories, this will smooth the way as we move to the new arrangements. These changes will have enormous benefit for Australian children and their families are introduced.

Over the next four years the Australian Government will invest a record $20 billion in early childhood education and care. To put this in context it is more than double what was invested in the last four years of the previous Howard Government.

I look forward to working with you all – parents, educators and of course our youngest citizens - during this exciting time.

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