This 2022 federal election we are calling on candidates across politics to support high quality early learning access, affordability, inclusion and stability for every child.
On 2 May 2022 we invited cross-party leaders with early childhood portfolio responsibility to a virtual forum to share their policies and plans to support Australian children if their party wins this federal election.
Each leader was also offered the opportunity to submit a written piece outlining their party’s policy position. The following information has been supplied by Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens spokesperson for Education, Senator for NSW.
For more information and to get involved in the Early Learning Matters this election campaign, go to our website.
All children deserve access to early childhood education and care. This is critical for their development in the early years. However, as it stands, early childhood education is too expensive and too hard for families to access. A recent report by the Mitchell Institute found that 35.2% of our population and more than 550,000 children aged 0-4 years live in ‘childcare deserts’ where places are extremely limited. This is holding children and families back.
This election the Greens have committed to free and universal childcare and expanding free and universal preschool to 24 hours per week for all 3 and 4 year olds. The Greens’ Free and Universal Early Childhood Education and Care policy also includes support to strengthen early learning for First Nations children through support for Aboriginal community-controlled services and $200 million of grant funding for community and not-for-profit centres to assist with capital works or increased workforce depending on the needs of the service. These grants will be targeted at high needs areas, making sure those who need it the most are receiving the resources they need.
As a migrant parent with no family in Australia, I would not have had the opportunity to study or to embark on my engineering career if it weren’t for affordable early childhood education at my university. Both my children have now had the benefit of early learning. Free and universal early childhood education and care will remove barriers that limit choices for women, boost women’s capacity to engage in paid work and relieve financial pressure on families.
It doesn’t matter where you live or how much you work or study—all families should have a right to free education and care for their children. The Greens’ commitment to extending preschool will genuinely ensure every 3 and 4 year old child, everywhere in the country, has access to 24 hours a week of a quality, play-based learning program staffed by qualified professionals and resourced to give them the best possible start in life, while early childhood education and care is free for up to five days a week.
Early childhood education is an essential public service, but governments have left services to be run by for-profit corporations. For-profit services have driven up fees, leaving Australian parents and carers paying some of the highest out-of-pocket costs in the OECD. For-profit services also have a track record of poorer safety standards and working conditions. In 2021,—a measure government and not-for-profit services perform well above average on.
Education should never be for profit. This is why the Greens will expand access to early childhood education and develop a plan to phase out for-profit early learning to ensure every child has access to early learning and care from a high-quality government-provided or not-for-profit service.
The treatment of early childhood educators is a national shame. Early childhood education was the first sector to be taken off JobKeeper, and educators continue to be paid well below what would be expected of those with their responsibility and skills.
The Greens will also support the sector by ensuring that early childhood educators have well-paid, secure jobs. We will deliver and implement a proper workforce strategy with the early learning sector and unions to achieve higher, professional pay and better working conditions for workers. In addition, we need better access to professional development and training for educators. Our vision for free TAFE and university provides those opportunities.
The Greens’ $19 billion plan has been fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. To pay for it, we will tax the billionaires, make the big corporations making excessive profits pay a ‘corporate super-profits tax’, and axe billions of dollars in handouts to the coal, oil and gas giants that are driving the climate crisis.
It’s time for bold thinking and big change when it comes to early education and care. The time for piecemeal, incremental shifts are in the past. The political parties and candidates who don’t recognise this are out of step with the community. Early childhood education and care is an essential public service and must be treated as such.
By Senator Mehreen Faruqi