Early Childhood Australia’s Advocacy

What Early Childhood Australia (ECA) 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.

Our vision: Every young child is thriving and learningThis 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

Advocacy Goals

ECA’s advocacy goals are outlined in our Strategic Plan – Strategic Directions (2017–2020):

Strategic Plan Priorities 
Priority 1: Speak up for children
Priority 2: Build social capital
Priority 3: Champion quality in early education
Priority 4: Lead & inspire professional learning
Priority 5: Position ECA for long term success

Values

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.”

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ECA hosted a Parliamentary Breakfast with the Parliamentary Friends of Early Childhood in 2014. The special guest was Professor Joe Sparling presenting on the Abecedarian approach.

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.

Partnerships

Australia-New Zealand cooperation: ECA working with Te Rito Maioha

In 2019, Early Childhood Australia (ECA) formalised its relationship with Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ), signing a partnership agreement on joint project work.

ECA and ECNZ share many goals and engage in similar activities, including advocacy for high quality early childhood education and care, and the provision of professional learning for educators. Both organisations work to serve their membership and the wider community of educators. ECNZ is also a tertiary training provider of initial teacher education, awarding undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, diplomas and certificates in early childhood education.

Under the partnership agreement, ECA and ECNZ will explore how to draw on each other’s strengths to deliver benefits to their members, including the best quality professional learning. Focus areas will include leadership, online learning, events and collaboration in third countries.

Advocacy campaigns

Driven by ECA, Early Learning Matters Week raises awareness of the role of early childhood education and care in children’s development and wellbeing in Australia.

High-quality education and care supports young children to learn and thrive, in cooperation with parents, carers and the wider community. Early Learning Matters Week was first staged in 2018, as part of the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign, supported by a coalition of more than 20 early childhood service providers, peak bodies, research and advocacy groups.

Initially, the primary purpose of Early Learning Matters Week was to better inform political decision-makers – across the party spectrum and across the nation – about the benefits of early learning. Now, we have expanded our horizons to include families and communities in Early Learning Matters Week, in recognition of the role early learning services play in supporting families and building our society.

You can find more information about Early Learning Matters Week events here.

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National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell launching ECA’s Supporting young children rights: Statement of Intent in 2015

Position Statements

In the past ECA has had a range of position statements on specific topics:

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.

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Minister for Communications, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, with ECA CEO Samantha Page, launching the Digital Business Kit for Early Childhood in 2014.

External 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, InstagramTwitter 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.
  • ECA is part of a coalition of peak bodies calling for an update to the Melbourne Declaration on Education including to recognise the importance of early education. 2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.

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.

Contact

If you would like to contact ECA about our advocacy please email policy@earlychildhood.org.au.

Further reading

Margaret Young (2013). ECA’s advocacy: 75 years and going strong. Every Child Vol. 19 No. 3. 

Press, Frances & Wong, Sandie, (author.) (2013). A voice for young children : 75 years of Early Childhood Australia. [Deakin West, ACT Early Childhood Australia Inc]