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Indigenous preschool plan outlined

The Federal Government has unveiled a new strategy designed to get indigenous children into preschool.

The government said it has already allocated $970 million over five years to ensure that by 2013 all children have access to a preschool program for 15 hours a week, for 40 weeks a year, in the year before starting school.

But early childhood minister Peter Garrett said that more needed to be done to encourage indigenous children into the program.

“Around 64 per cent of indigenous children are enrolled in early childhood education programs in the year before schooling, compared with 70 cent of all Australian children,” Garrett said.

“These rates need to increase significantly if we are going to achieve universal access in 2013. The strategy provides greater support for governments as we work together to ensure indigenous kids have the best start in life, preparing them for school and beyond.”

The government’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Universal Access Strategy recommends that every state and territory ensure preschool costs are affordable, and examine ways to overcome barriers such as distance.

The strategy aims to encourage culturally sensitive approaches to preschool and to get more indigenous people working in the sector.

The plan details four key areas for future effort:

• increasing access to early childhood education

• positive community awareness and engagement

• quality early childhood programs and activities and

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness of teachers and support staff.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Universal Access Strategy can be viewed at http://www.deewr.gov.au/Earlychildhood.

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