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Politicians put forward their ECEC promises in VIC Pre-Election Forum

Wed, 11/16/2022 - 12:20

On Thursday 27 October 2022, education and care peak bodies Community Child Care Association (CCC), Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) and Early Childhood Australia (ECA) were joined by three politicians to discuss state election promises for the sector in a Victorian Pre-Election Forum.

Speaking to over 85 attendees from across education and care, each party addressed concerns identified by the peaks in a joint submission.

Among points identified in the peaks’ submission, workforce support was key.

In addressing the burden experienced by the current workforce, Sam Hibbins, Member for Prahran and the Victorian spokesperson for Education, Transport, Youth and LGBTIQA+ Equality​ from the Victorian Greens said “You can’t talk about early childhood learning without talking about the need for well-paid, secure jobs right across the sector.”

Hibbins went on to say “If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s just how important early childhood learning staff are. They are an essential service. They’ve been undervalued for far too long and certainly we support the calls for a retention bonus being paid to early childhood workers, and certainly much more needs to be done to make sure that there are well-paid and secure jobs right across the sector.”

The peaks also highlighted the need for community consultation in the establishment of new services.

David Hodgett, Member for Croydon and Shadow Minister for Education, Early Childhood and Higher Education, Training and Skills from the Victorian Liberals agreed “planning for kindergarten is really, really important and genuine community consultation is paramount.”

Hodgett continued “Our approach, and you can see that with some of the things we’ve done in the past six to twelve months with Greater Shepparton or in our dealings with Rise in the north in terms of their education needs, is to prioritise community consultations to deliver services that cater to the community and are not a tick-in-the-box exercise.”

In discussing Inclusion Support for the sector, Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep Ingrid Stitt from the Victorian Labour Party said “I’m very passionate about ensuring that those children who are going to benefit the most from universal kindergarten are able to access affordable and quality kindergarten programs, so I think that the Best Start, Best Life reforms are a real opportunity for us to deepen the quality of the offering right across Victoria.”

Minister Stitt continued “in last year’s state budget we invested $53.7 million over four years to provide more of those kindergarten inclusion support packages for families to assist children who have a disability so that they can fully participate in kindergarten programs.”

The politicians also each took time to discuss their party’s ambitions.

Hibbins shared “In terms of what the Greens are putting forward this election, the first thing I want to say is that I absolutely am supportive of the free three and four-year-old kinder reforms.”

Hibbins continued “We’d like to see at least $100 million extra over the next term going directly to our not-for-profit community-run childhood education centres.”

Hibbins outlined “That would be non-attached funding, to whatever the needs of that centre is, whether it be additional staff, supporting more staff, facilities or new programs.”

Hodgett confirmed the Liberal Party’s commitment to free kinder noting “Early childhood education certainly represents a really important start of a child’s educational journey and we absolutely support this initiative.”

Hodgett continued “I think it’s quite rare in politics to get bipartisan support on initiatives, and in fact I’d like to see more bipartisan support for education initiatives. Maybe if we had a similar level of support in terms of literacy education for example, we wouldn’t have 20% of 15-year-olds in Victoria functionally illiterate.”

Minister Stitt also took a moment to discuss quality improvements and mandated assessments as least every three years for the sector.

Stitt said “I am absolutely committed to making sure DET and the regulator have the resources they need to address quality in the sector and we have allocated $46.8 million for QARD to take account of the growth in the sector so that they can do that important work.”

Whilst Stitt noted that a change to the frequency of assessments would require discussions with other states and the federal government, she did go on to say “I certainly understand that it’s a very important part of the sector to ensure that parents can be confident that the kindergarten that they want to send their child to is a quality offering.”

A full recording of the forum is available for members of Community Child Care Association, Early Learning Association Australia and Early Childhood Australia.