Dare to dreams—An early years strategy and the unwavering rights of the child

The future of Australia relies on developing a strong vision for the early years. This vision should reflect the needs of children, families and the community, focusing on improving positive outcomes for all children. 

As a signatory to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989), Australia is bound by a profound responsibility to safeguard the rights of every child. Let us ask ourselves: Is our nation truly living up to this commitment? Are we actively ensuring that every child is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve? Are children’s voices genuinely heard and valued in our society?  

Now is the time to question our progress and challenge ourselves to create a society where equity and fairness are not mere illusions but tangible realities. Australia’s vision should not be limited to empty rhetoric; it must embody a transformative culture where every child is truly seen, heard, and valued. It must provide opportunities to celebrate each child’s unique talents and qualities and recognise their voices. Australia requires a vision for the early years that is brave and bold, and that is not afraid to put the right of the child front and centre. 

It is crucial that an early years strategy not simply acknowledges but fiercely upholds the rights of all children, especially those who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances. We must not turn a blind eye to the deep-rooted historical injustices inflicted upon First Nations children, families, and communities. Rather the strategy must confront these truths head-on and adopt a culturally responsive approach that recognises the profound impact of the past on their present realities. It must examine current policies and practices and the impact these are having to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated. 

We must not ignore the plight of those vulnerable children and families in our community, those contending with the burden of poverty, from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds, or with disability or developmental delay. An early years strategy must address the unique needs and challenges faced by all these children and their families. It is a moral imperative in a country as wealthy as Australia that every child must have access to the opportunities and resources they require to thrive.  

To truly champion the rights of every child, we must be unwavering in our commitment to justice, ensuring that no child is left behind and that their rights and wellbeing are at the forefront of our collective consciousness. It is an opportunity to develop an early years strategy that is an unyielding force of change, an instrument of empowerment that safeguards the rights and future of every child, regardless of their circumstances. 

It is time to rise above complacency and actively work towards a future where the rights of every child are fiercely protected, ensuring a society that thrives on respect, dignity, and meaningful inclusion. An early years strategy for Australia must uphold children’s rights as proclaimed by the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989). 

The future of Australia relies on developing a strong vision for the early years—a vision that reflects the needs of children, families, and the community, with a steadfast focus on improving positive outcomes for all children. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that this vision is not just a lofty ideal but a reality that prioritises the rights, wellbeing, and voices of every child.  

Discuss this further with your team using the reflection questions below and share thoughts in the comments: 
1.     How do we ensure that an early years strategy for Australia upholds children’s rights? 

2.     How can we ensure that children’s voices are genuinely heard and valued in our society and that their unique talents and qualities are celebrated? 

3.     What steps can be taken to address the historical injustices inflicted upon First Nations children and adopt a culturally responsive approach that acknowledges their past and improves their present realities within an early years strategy? 

Stephanie Jackiewicz

Stephanie is a Consultant and Coach in the human service sector. She began her career as an educator and soon moved into the research stream, firstly as a university lecturer and then as a Senior Research Officer at the Telethon Kids Institute. She has been involved in a variety of projects that relate to children’s health and wellbeing and has presented at both international and national conferences. She was the National Director (WA) on the Early Childhood Australia Board (ECA) for six years. During that time she was involved with the development of the ECA Reconciliation Action Plan, sat on the Barbara Creaser Awards committee and chaired the ECA National Committee reviewing the Code of Ethics. Stephanie has been a long term advocate for young children and in 2015 was acknowledged for this work with an award for Outstanding Professional Service Award from the Professional Teachers Council of WA. Prior to joining Wanslea as an Executive Manager Stephanie led the Early Years Learning and Care Team at Catholic Education Western Australia. She was integral in developing the organisations first child care services and in implementing the EYLF and NQS in the schooling sector. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Social Science, Master of Social Science and Master of Business Administration.

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