Senate debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022


Early Childhood Education

7:34 pm

Photo of Fatima PaymanFatima Payman (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Early childhood education plays a vital role in our society. I'm a firm believer, as are my Labor colleagues, in the importance it plays in children's development, for families, particularly mothers, to re-engage in the workforce, and for the economy as a whole. As an aunty to my gorgeous 20-month-old nephew Ibrahim, I understand the pressures that my sister and her husband go through as a young couple trying to make ends meet. They're both studying full time and working part time while having a mortgage to pay, endless bills that pile on and a baby whose cuteness unfortunately doesn't cover his expenses. To then consider having to pay for early learning causes quite the strain on their household budget. Like many young Australian mothers and fathers out there, my sister deserves to pursue her career while ensuring her child has access to a good educational start that is affordable and provided by educators who are passionate and recognised for their work.

In my previous role as an organiser at the United Workers Union, I heard from educators who didn't feel respected or valued despite the critical role they play. They were overworked with a low ratio of staff to children, feeling burnt out and neglected. This prevented educators from building effective and meaningful relationships with each child, impacting their ability to provide the individual attention which is crucial to developing the child's social and learning skills. COVID-19 definitely exacerbated the already existing issues in the early education sector. It is this workforce, primarily of women, that care for our children who can intervene to help in their early years so that disadvantage doesn't follow them. These educators can ensure that Australian children have the best start in life.

Unlike some of those on the other side, Labor values, recognises and will support a high-quality early education workforce. I am proud to be a small part of the change because, while I know every educator does what they do based on their passion for children and education, they deserve a government which understands and supports them as well. Already we have heard from the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Dr Anne Aly, that the work has begun, and I am confident that her commitment to the sector will mean great outcomes for children, families and educators.

Unfortunately, the costs of early learning have been growing, eating a hole in household budgets and contributing to the rising cost of living. When early learning is unaffordable for families, parents have no choice but to stay home instead of rejoining the workforce, and this burden often falls on mothers. In reforming early learning to make it more affordable and accessible, Labor will increase women's participation in the workforce. Labor will help the economy that is struggling with staff shortages and, most importantly, Labor will invest in our nation's future by ensuring that children get the best start in life.

Our reforms will be achieved through a review of the sector, through the Productivity Commission, with the aim of implementing a universal 90 per cent childcare subsidy for all families. The ACCC will design a price regulation mechanism. This plan will make child care cheaper for 96 per cent of families who have children in care. Importantly, this economic reform will have far-reaching social impacts and deliver a better future.


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