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Turnbull victory bittersweet for early education groups

Malcolm Turnbull’s election victory speech had an endearing connection to early childhood. “When Bill [Shorten] called me I had our little granddaughter Isla on my left hip, so she was a 1-year-old witness to history,” the prime minister proclaimed. “That’s a moment I’ll never forget. It was a reminder that we are trustees for future generations. Everything we do is about the future.”

He may want to remind himself of that as he steers the Coalition’s early-childhood policy. Various advocacy groups and individuals aren’t wholly satisfied with the government’s proposals.

The Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) stressed the need for the opposition and cross-benchers to “to demand key changes to the package such as the removal of the Activity Test”, to improve outcomes for kids. The co-operative also noted that “the Coalition made no absolute commitment to extend the Universal Access National Partnership during the campaign”.

Shane Lucas, chief executive of the Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA), suggested the Coalition consider the development of the National Quality Framework and Budget Based (Service) Funding, in addition to CCCC NSW’s reservations.

Susan Irvine, associate professor in early-childhood education at QUT, mentioned these matters but also raised the fiercely contested issue of early-childhood educators’ pay. “While the main platform, the Jobs for Families childcare package, has a number of positives to it, it completely fails to address the important issue of workforce and that [raises] the question: who is going to be working in the services we want to expand and enhance the quality of?” she protested.

Her assertion is especially meaningful given the results of her recent survey, which found that 1 in 5 early-childhood educators intend to leave the profession within the year, mainly due to inadequate recognition, pay and conditions. Irvine was further troubled by the government’s focus on increasing childcare access to support parents’ careers, as opposed to encouraging kids’ learning.

Despite their concerns, early-childhood advocacy groups retained hope that Turnbull would provide educational promise for the next generation.

The Community Child Care Co-operative stated that it wants Turnbull to recall his election victory words (“we are trustees for future generations”) as he legislates for the early learning sector.

The ELAA’s Lucas took a more participatory stance: “We congratulate the prime minister on the election result and we look forward to working with the government … on these critical issues.” With granddaughter baby Isla, Turnbull has a vested interest in co-operating.

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  1. Jannelle Gallagher

    I would like to remind Mr Turnbull that his granddaughter’s future is more than likely going to be full of potential and wonder. This isn’t the reality for many preschool aged children.
    He has an opportunity to make a big difference not only in federally funded early childhood and eduaction but to influence what is happening in the state of NSW. Early childhood teachers and educators are being asked to do more with less and up until now we have answered this call.
    Will this continue ? Susan Irvine is right Early childhood Education and care staff are exhausted.

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