The federal government will introduce new reforms this week, including a relaxation of CCS activity test requirements, designed to encourage more First Nations families to enroll their children in early childhood education and care.
Currently 4.3% of children in ECEC identify as First Nations although it represents 6.1% of the population of children aged 0 to 5 years.
“For the first time, the Closing the Gap report indicates that school readiness for Indigenous children has declined,” Education Minister Jason Clare said.
“We need to turn the tide and a big part of that is breaking down the barriers that prevent them from going into early childhood education and care.”
As part of the changes, which are part of the government’s strategy Plan cheaper childcareFirst Nations families and their children will be entitled to 36 hours of subsidized care in a given fortnight, compared to the current amount of 24 hours.
“These simple changes will benefit approximately 6,600 First Nations families, increasing the number of hours that Indigenous children are entitled to subsidized child care from 24 hours per fortnight to 36 hours,” said Minister of Early Childhood Education, Anne Aly.
“Not only do the changes help alleviate cost of living pressures, they provide even more opportunities for First Nations children to access the developmental, educational and health benefits of education and care. early childhood, helping them to be ready for school. »
The government has also committed to investing $10.2 million to establish the Early Childhood Care and Development Policy Partnership between Australian, state and territory governments and Indigenous representatives.
The partnership will be co-chaired by SNAICC – National Voice for our Children and will contribute to the development of community-led policies and programs that Indigenous families need to ensure their children thrive.
The voices of the ECEC sector applaud the measures taken
A number of leading ECEC organisations, including the Australian Child Care Alliance (ACA) and Early Childhood Australia (ECA) responded to the announcement by welcoming the reforms and the benefits they should bring.
“It is promising to see the federal government’s collaborative approach to working with state and territory governments, alongside the SNAICC and other Indigenous representatives,” said ECA CEO Samantha Page.
“This will help to appropriately remove barriers to access in the current process and achieve better outcomes for children.”
Paul Mondo, President of the ACA, added: “We strongly support new reforms aimed at improving access for indigenous children, because the removal of barriers to high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) quality for children from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds has always been a challenge. priority for the ACA.
The ACA statement also noted that it had advocated for the government to simplify the application process for families to access subsidized early learning, with a strong recommendation to remove the complexities of the activity test in favor of all children and all families.
“Activity testing creates an unnecessary barrier to greater participation in ECEC and positive learning outcomes and workforce participation,” Mondo explained. “We therefore hope that this is the first step in reforming the activity test to ensure that subsidized access is available to all children.”