Say what you do and why it matters

January has been a really interesting month for early childhood. The uninformed comments from Senator Leyonhjelm and Senator Hansen have left many in the sector absolutely gobsmacked. It’s a sad day when our profession is described as “wiping noses and stopping kids from killing each other”. Obviously the senators have never bothered to read the research or consult with the sector before making statements about early childhood and how to solve the problems of rising costs.

One positive that has come out of this is that it has certainly rallied the troops and educators who would normally say nothing have been motivated to come out and speak up about what we actually do and how important it actually is. We need to keep this going. We need to keep the dialogue open. We need to continue to educate our families and the wider community about early childhood and the long term benefits. We need to turn these comments into positives.

Are we “wiping noses” or are we supporting children in their independence in regard to personal needs and hygiene?

Are we “stopping kids killing each other” or are we supporting children to resolve conflict, negotiate, become resilient and express themselves?

What I fail to understand in this whole debate is why families would accept untrained, unqualified and inexperienced staff to educate and care for their most precious possessions and our country's future brains trust. We need to make this clear to families.

Many years ago I was meeting with my local state member (not the current one) about better funding for preschools and he made the comment to me “Yes I can see how important it is. Mothers need a break and a chance to have a coffee and play golf”. Really? I wonder if this is still the perception coupled with “wiping noses and stopping kids from killing each other”?

I do believe the tide is slowly turning and more people are beginning to see the value of early childhood. We have a lot of research to prove this and evidence from other countries who value early childhood and early childhood educators. Attitudes are changing – there are not many dinosaurs like these senators left. Families expect more and better. The National Quality Framework (NQF) and Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) have lifted standards and made educators and services more accountable.

We need to make sure that qualifications are not dumbed down. Next there will be a push to say that teachers are not necessary in this age group and where does that leave us and children accessing early childhood services? Far worse off.

It’s always hard to change attitudes and opinions that are entrenched in ignorance. Opinions are never based on fact. Give your families facts so they can make informed and considered choices and support us in our fight.

Gabe Connell
Vice President ECS