Time for some fresh thinking

It’s a new year and we have a new Early Childhood Minister in NSW, Sarah Mitchell. Federally, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has flagged changes to childcare as being a top priority.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were some fresh thinking around the recurring problems with childcare in 2017?

Exorbitant costs to parents, particularly in NSW, continue. The cap of $75000 per annum on the Child Care Rebate is leaving many parents struggling.

The latest Report on Government Services (RoGS) shows a sharp decline in affordability of childcare for low to middle income families, according to analysis by Early Childhood Australia (ECA).

Compared with last year, families earning $35,000 per year are paying nearly 20% more in out of pocket expenses (as a proportion of their weekly income, after subsidies are factored in), while families on $135,000 per year or more are paying just 5-7% more.

ECA said this confirms anecdotal reports that more families are reaching the $7500 annual cap on Child Care Rebate earlier in the financial year and then having to pay higher out of pocket costs. For low and middle income families this has a significant impact on the household.

Yet these high fees do not translate to higher wages for teachers. The issue of pay parity for early childhood teachers with school teachers remains outstanding.

There must be a better way. Universal access to preschool, adopted in many countries such as the UK, needs to be accepted in Australia. Frustrating and outdated attitudes like those displayed by Senator David Leyonhjelm, that early childhood education is just ‘babysitting’ keep recurring, despite overwhelming international research on the importance of good quality education for 0-5s.

We need to once and for all put to bed the idea that early childhood education and the people who teach it are of lesser importance than any other form of education. We in the sector might feel like we are constantly banging the same drum, but it falls on us to make sure our leaders step up and move in the right direction.

John Quessy
NSW ACT Secretary

Terry Burke
QLD NT Secretary