Kate Ellis issued a fiery challenge to Australia yesterday during her address to the National Press Club – she asked if we were ready to unscramble the egg of childcare and early education and start again with a radically changed system.
The Shadow Minister for Early Education and Development described our early childhood education and care system as being “broken beyond immediate repair” and in its current form, “incapable of meeting the needs of Australian parents, our economy, government, the workforce that keeps it going, or most importantly, the children for whom it exists”.
She stated that the Government has spent the last three years debating technicalities rather than discussing “how we best support Australian children’s development, Australian parents, or invest most successfully in our economic future.”
Her solution? A radical rethink involving solutions such as:
Abandoning the existing fee and subsidy system. Ms Ellis suggested that the current system allowed government no mechanisms to limit fees or to ensure that childcare places are where parents needed them. (She even pointed out that the Government knows where children are and should at the very least to be able to ensure early education and care places are where children are.
The introduction of competitive tendering for early education and care delivery and capping the costs parents pay – working towards a situation where children are guaranteed a place at their local service, much the same way as happens at schools.
Extending universal access to preschool education to three year olds to ensure that Australia does not fall behind other countries – Ellis noted that many countries already provide this.