As the CEO of Early Childhood Australia I feel very proud of our organisation’s long tradition of advocating for the rights of children, parents and early childhood professionals. It’s how we get things done for young children.
As a national organisation we have had significant impact in advocating for the National Quality Framework, to ensure all children have access to quality early childhood education and care, and our advocacy to ensure all children have universal access to 15 hours of preschool/kindergarten in the year before school.
Of course there is much more to do, and every professional working in the field of teaching early childhood education should feel authorised and empowered to engage in advocacy as part of your practice and ethical responsibility.
Good practice is advocacy
Many services will already be engaging in ‘internal advocacy’ for young children by providing quality experiences for all young children in their early childhood services. In fact, this type of advocacy is part of National Quality Standard – by ensuring ‘the dignity and rights of every child are maintained at all times’. (NQS Element 5.2.3), working in partnership with parents and ‘helping families access services’ (Gibbs, 2003, p.7) (NQS Quality Area 6) and working with the community to improve children’s developmental outcomes (NQS Quality Area 6).
ECA also recently developed the Supporting young children’s rights – Statement of Intent to assist professionals to advocate for children’s rights in early childhood services.
It’s our ethical responsibility
‘Early childhood professionals have an ethical obligation to be advocates for children and families by virtue of their role. It is important to understand the effect of advocacy and public policy on the lives of children.’(Gibbs, 2003, p.9)
The ECA Code of Ethics provides a framework to support advocacy on behalf of young children. It’s the ethical responsibility of professionals ‘promote shared aspirations amongst communities in order to enhance children’s health and wellbeing’.
The Code of Ethics also provides a responsibility to engage in public advocacy – ‘for the development and implementation of laws and policies that promote child-friendly communities’ and to ‘utilise knowledge and research to advocate for universal access to a range of high-quality early childhood programs for all children’.
2016 is a big year for advocacy
There has never been a more important year for public advocacy on behalf of children by early childhood professionals. It’s a Federal election year. New laws are before the Parliament which will remove some children’s subsidised access to early childhood education entirely. There continues to be a gap in the public’s understanding of early childhood development. And there is even a proposal by governments to remove ‘play’ from educational program and practice.
While many services have engaged in internal advocacy, some services may need support to engage in public advocacy for the first time.
This may include, inviting your local politician to visit your service, providing feedback to consultations with children’s interests in mind, and engaging on children’s issues on social media.
The best way to start is engaging in ‘shared advocacy’ is through professional network by becoming a member of Early Childhood Australia.
ECA has developed new resources on how to advocate as an early childhood professional.
You can also see how ECA advocates for young children – including how to get involved in our upcoming campaigns.
Gibbs, L. (2003). Action, advocacy and activism: Standing up for children. Marrickville, Sydney: Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW).