Early Childhood Australia’s Advocacy
What Early Childhood Australia Stands for:
As the national peak body for early childhood, ECA is a regular, and trusted, contributor to the public policy debate on all matters affecting young children (birth to eight years) and their families. This includes:
- Early childhood education and care (preschool, long day care, family day care, occasional care, mobile services and specialist programs)
- Early years of schooling
- Outside school hours care
- Child and family centres, programs and support services
- Inclusion support
- Social and emotional wellbeing
- Maternal & child health services
- Parent education (birth to eight)
- Other policy areas affecting children and their families
We specifically acknowledge the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families, and the past and current injustices and realities for them around Australia.
Our work is informed by our:
- commitment to children’s rights
- knowledge of early childhood development, learning and pedagogy
- commitment to an inclusive and just society
- respect for the rights and aspirations of families
- the active involvement of our members
ECA’s advocacy goals are outlined in our Strategic Plan – Strategic Directions (2014–2017):
|Strategic Plan Objectives|
|1.1. The rights and wellbeing of young children are at the forefront of social discourse and social policy.
1.2 Young Aboriginal and Islander children are thriving and learning.
1.3 Investment in early childhood increases annually in Australia— our target is 1 per cent of GDP spent by 2020.
2.1 Continuous improvement in the delivery of early childhood education and care.
2.2 The Early Childhood National Quality Reform Agenda continues to be implemented with increased public understanding and support.
2.3 Early childhood education and care is inclusive and effective across populations of vulnerable children.
2.4 Early childhood education and care is provided by a qualified, specialised and skilled workforce.
ECA’s approach is informed by our organisational values:
- Integrity – we ensure informed, ethical, authentic and transparent behaviour and our conviction guides what we do and how we do it every day.
- Collaboration – we share knowledge, establish and maintain respectful and trusting relationships with others to support the achievement of positive outcomes for children.
- Leadership – we acknowledge that strong pedagogical and courageous leadership is essential to support and promote the rights and voice of children.
- Inclusiveness – we value and promote acceptance of diversity in our work and that of the broader community.
- Quality – we strive to ensure that everything we do is high quality and demonstrates commitment to our advocacy role.
Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics also provides a set of statements about appropriate and expected behaviour of members of a professional group reflecting our values.
“We acknowledge that strong pedagogical and courageous leadership is essential to support and promote the rights and voice of children.”
How we advocate
ECA has a federated structure, individuals and services are members of State and Territory branches. Through our state and territory branches, we advocate on state government issues and enable strong advocacy levels at multiple levels.
The national organisation of Early Childhood Australia is governed by a National Council and a National Board of Directors. The members of our National Council and National Board of Directors are representatives of the Early Childhood Australia State and Territory branches.The National Board of Directors is required to act in the best interests of the organisation as a whole and sets the strategic directions for the organisation.
The work of the national organisation is supported by the National Office. The National Office ECA draws on the broad experiences and expertise of our members in our advocacy work. We take a strong evidence based approach to advocacy and conduct and commission research and reviews to inform our rigorous position on policy matters. The National Office is responsible for the development and implementation of the National Work Program, which is approved by the National Board of Directors and underwrites the achievement of the Early Childhood Australia’s strategic plan. The Chief Executive Officer Ms Samantha Page works closely with the National Board of Directors towards the achievement of the organisation’s goals.
Early Childhood Australia supports campaigns that help to reach our advocacy objectives.
Early Childhood Australia supports the Everyone Benefits campaign together with leading Australian early childhood peak bodies, research and advocacy organisations, and service providers.
Early Learning: Everyone Benefits is a positive national campaign which aims to:
- increase public awareness and understanding of the benefits of investing in early learning (birth to five years) for Australia’s future prosperity
- increase access to quality programs that amplify children’s development by securing political commitment to increasing early learning.
In the past ECA has had a range of position statements on specific topics:
- ECA collaborated with the National Children’s Commissioner to develop Supporting young children’s rights: statement of intent 2015-2018.
- ECA collaborated with Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA) to produce a Joint statement on the inclusion of children with a disability in early childhood education and care.
- ECA also has a Reconciliation Action Plan, which outlines the values and principles from which ECA can help advance reconciliation in our communities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the broader Australian Community.
ECA is currently about to release a Statement on the inclusion of every child in early childhood education and care.
ECA is also currently developing a Statement on young children and digital technology, to guide and inform the early childhood sector, families of young children about using digital and interactive technology with and for young children.
All of ECA’s Statements can be viewed here.
Collaboration strengthens our advocacy
One of ECA’s key values is collaboration. This approach is employed across ECA’s work. For example, we form Advisory Groups and Project Reference Groups of members and stakeholders to help inform our work (see the table below).
To inform policy submissions and media communications we have established stakeholder groups that participate in regular meetings. ECA also convenes a range of high level groups:
- Reference groups.
- Large provider network.
- Stakeholder communications and policy reference groups.
We use online surveys and workshops to help inform and provide feedback on policy submissions, publications and events.
ECA’s prime leadership role comes from supporting and maintaining the rights and voice of children. We acknowledge that strong pedagogical and courageous leadership is essential to this advocacy.
ECA provides strong internal and external advocacy to promote the rights and wellbeing of young children.
Our external advocacy includes:
- appearing before Parliamentary and government hearings and inquiries.
- writing submissions to reviews and inquiries.
- publishing evidence based reports and statements.
- building a media presence.
- engaging support through the use of social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- conducting and supporting social research.
- conducting issues based campaigns – like the Hands up for Quality campaign in support of the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care, and the Early Learning – Everyone Benefits campaign to improve access to quality early learning for all children.
- engaging early childhood professionals, services and families in policy issues.
Our internal advocacy includes:
- providing representation on all significant decision-making bodies that impact on early childhood education and care delivery.
- bringing together stakeholders with common goals.
- ‘influencing the influencers’ including organisations and people.
- regular meetings with members of Parliament and Government Ministers and their staff with the objective of influencing Government policy.
- regular meetings with Government officials.
- funding and conducting and publishing research.
Support for professional advocacy
ECA also recognises that promoting the rights and voice and young children does not only require high level advocacy, but also empowering early childhood services and educators to take leadership at the local level and supporting them to deliver programs which also meet these objectives. That’s why part of our goals are to ensure early childhood education and care is provided by a qualified, specialised and skilled workforce. This includes building leadership capabilities across the early childhood education and care sector.
ECA regularly visits and meets with services and educators to showcase best practice and engage and consult on issues concerning the sector. We hold service visits, conferences, branch meetings and advisory and reference groups to inform our approach.
Find out how to advocate as an early childhood professional here.
Jobs for Families Package Childcare Package Bill
(The future direction of childcare rebates)
What is happening in parliament?
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a reform of childcare subsidies would be a priority for his Government in 2017. The Prime Minister recognised that many families are only just managing financially and that increased support with childcare costs in urgently needed. The transcript of his address at the National Press Club from 1 February 2017 can be found here.
In the next few days and possibly weeks, the Jobs for Families Package Childcare Package Bill will be put to both houses of parliament to make a decision. The biggest hurdle will be when this Bill goes to the Senate and we will see how various Senators react to it. There is a mix of Senators who oppose, support and are also undecided about this Bill. The difficulty with this Childcare Package Bill and a key reason for the delay is the government have decided to tie the funding of this Childcare Package Bill to making cuts to the Family Tax Benefit (FTB). That is, they will take money from FTB families in order to pay the families childcare subsidy. This hardly seems fair and ECA do not support the tying of these two bills.
The Labor Party, Greens and some of the cross bench publically do not support the tying of these two bills – so it jeopardises the likely passage of the Childcare Package Bill.
What is ECA doing?
ECA are supportive of the government streamlining the CCB and CCR into one subsidy, and their increased early learning investment of $3 billion. However we are concerned about the impact of the proposed activity test (in the Childcare Package Bill), particularly on families with poor or irregular workforce engagement. ECA have argued strongly for children to have universal access of quality play-based early learning for two days per week – regardless of parental work activity. See our media release and Senate Inquiry Submission.
Since the Child Care Package Bill was introduced last year, ECA has worked independently and collaboratively with other major service providers and key networks to lobby government. We have asked for:
- an increase of 12 hours to 15 hours of government (two days) subsidy; and to raise the family salary income entitlement from $65,710 to $100,00 pa. Note: 15 hours per week in the new subsidy will be a higher level of financial support than the current combined CCB/CCR system
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children to have a base entitlement of 22.5 hours and a specialised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program to support otherwise unviable services
- The activity test and subsidy approval processes to be flexible to accommodate the complex needs of families.
In December 2016, ECA met with Education Minister Simon Birmingham, Shadow Minister Kate Ellis and key Senators from the Greens and the cross bench to continue discussing the amendments we require for the Child Care Package Bill.
We are also arguing that investing in childcare and early learning more than pays for itself because of the positive impact on the workforce participation and productivity, social equality, and educational and life outcomes.
Additionally the Family Tax Benefit savings already passed by the Senate since the 2015 budget will save around $3.6 billion over the forwards and rising to $5.5 billion if the child care Family Daycare savings and the baby bonus cancellation are added in. This is more than enough to fund the Child Care package ($3 billion) with savings left over.
What does this mean for childcare services and families?
ECA recognises that families need the Child Care Package subsidy reforms to proceed; as many have already reached their cap rebate. There are also children missing out on quality early learning experiences because of the high out of pocket costs that many families (low and middle income) simply cannot afford. We will continue to advocate for two days of quality early learning universal access for all children and we encourage our members to get involved and talk to families about these issues.
PSW (2016) Economic Impacts of the Proposed Child Care Package Bill.
If you would like to contact ECA about our advocacy please email firstname.lastname@example.org.