Speech - Launch of the Early Years Strategy

07 May 2024


Thank you, Amanda. I'd also like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Bidjigal and Gadigal Clans and I'd like to pay my respects to the elders past and present and celebrate the diversity of First Nations people, their ongoing cultures and traditions, their educational practices and their connection to the land, water and skies. I'd like to acknowledge all First Nations people joining us here today. 

It has been an absolute pleasure working with my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, on this incredibly important piece of work and I look forward to continuing this work as we implement the Early Years Strategy. The Strategy has already successfully broken-down silos between federal departments of education and the social services in its creation. In the process of developing this implement Strategy, it's been a wonderful first step in delivering a more integrated and holistic approach to delivering these mutual benefits for our youngest Australians and their families. 

I, too, want to thank the wonderful advisory panel, many of whom are here today, and take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to Playgroup NSW and Playgroup Australia for hosting us today. I was a playgroup mum and I have to say that at significant times in my life and my children's life playgroup was a constant. Providing a sense of stability, an opportunity to learn through play and grow through play such an important part of the child's life. It's also great to see the Front Project here today and of course, as always, it's wonderful to have the opportunity to meet some of the most adorable children and to get down and play with these wonderful, adorable children and their families here today. I'm always in awe when I sit down with children and watch them play just how much they are learning through the imagination that they bring to play and you can almost feel and see that development in their brain happening as we sit down. 

Certainly a reminder of just how important this Strategy is and also very exciting, I must say, to be here today launching this government Strategy. Now, it comes as no surprise to everybody here today just how important those first five years to a child's life are as Amanda has said, this is where 90 per cent of brain development occurs. And these years create the building blocks for lifelong physical, mental health, social and cognitive wellbeing. We know that if we get those first five things right, we are able to change the trajectory of a child's life. 

A lot of expertise has come together to shape this Strategy. Informed by educators, communities from advocates and importantly, as I've been mentioning, parents and carers. Critically, though, children also informed part of our consultations. Now, too often children can be left out and underestimated in discussions and issues that impact them. 115 children with diverse backgrounds provide invaluable insights that have helped shape this strategy. And these youngest Australians participated in activities at early childhood education and care services, right across Australia, designed to prompt their insights and their ideas. Those insights highlight the passion and creativity of our youngest community members. The process also clearly shows that our youngest Australians are able to engage in complex concepts. We learnt from these children that connection and community, physical activity, imagination and creativity, awareness of and engagement with environmental factors are greatly important in their daily lives and how are they in the world. And this has helped shape our Early Years Strategy. You see, these things run strongly throughout this Strategy. 

Another important part of the Strategy is ensuring that supports and services are equitable, inclusive and accessible. That this is a Strategy for all children. All children, no matter their background or their circumstances. It is not lost on me that we hold in our hands the ability to change a child's life and to help children overcome disadvantage. I've said this many times before, and I’ll certainly say it again. This is what drives what we do. That no child born into disadvantage should have to carry that disadvantage, whatever that disadvantage is, through their lives. In creating this Strategy, we focused on ensuring that all Australian children have access to the supports they need to get the best possible start in life, no matter where they live or their background. 

Which is why it's so important that this Strategy reflects our commitment to chart the course to universal access to quality early childhood education and care. I'm so pleased that we've already been able to make early childhood education better overall for more than 1 million Australian families right across the country through our cheaper childcare reforms. But we know that there's still plenty of work to do. We tasked the ACCC with looking into early childhood education and care pricing and market operation. And the ACCC's final report will feed into the work that we have the Productivity Commission doing, looking at how we can make the whole of early childhood education and care more affordable, more accessible and, importantly, more inclusive. And I look forward to receiving the final Productivity Commission report so that we can start getting to work on the next stage of delivering the best start in life for our youngest Australians. 

So, thank you again for joining us here today and for embracing the Early Years Strategy. This is just the start. It's a ten year framework and we certainly can't do it alone. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it's going to take the village to create the best possible start in life for all our children. Part of this is something that comes easily to all of us; working together, working in collaboration to highlight the value and importance of the early years. And part of it will take more intentional and deliberate effort to integrate the principles of this Strategy into everything that we do, making policies and decisions that at their very core are childcare-centred, strengths-based, respectful of families and communities, equitable, inclusive and respectful of diversity and everyone else involved. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you and with you, Amanda, as we strive to ensure that our youngest Australians have the best possible and strongest start in life, that they thrive in their early years and that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Thank you.