Speech - Telethon Kids Institute Play Active Guide launch

23 April 2024

Thank you so much, Jonathan. Can I join my colleague in also acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation. I want to pay my respects to elders past and present and celebrate the diversity of First Nations people and their ongoing cultures and traditions, their education practices and their connection to land, water and skies. And I acknowledge all First Nations people here with us this morning on this beautiful blustery huff and puff morning. 

Can I also acknowledge my federal and state parliamentary colleagues here who have been mentioned earlier. And a huge thank you to the Telethon Kids Institute for their invitation to be part of this wonderful day. 

I want to thank the Telethon Kids Institute for the significant role that you play in promoting and supporting quality earlier childhood education and care for our youngest Western Australians. Now, Jonathan, you said something when you were up here about, you know, about the Telethon Kids Institute not being just about research and publication. Back when I was a professor my colleagues coined a term for that, and they used to call me an pracademic because I was so focused on ensuring that the work, the research that I did, had practical outcomes. And I think that pretty much describes the philosophy of the Telethon Kids Institute – you’re all pracademics and you’re wonderful at what you do, and greatly appreciated the work that you put into programs like this that are backed by evidence and research and have a practical, tangible outcome and a practical, tangible impact on the lives of Western Australian children – and now children right across Australia. 

I also note that today we have some very important representatives from industry, government departments, academics, pracademics, our wonderful early learning directors, teachers and educators and, of course, the opportunity to meet some of the most beautiful, adorable children and their families. What a great morning it is whenever you get to meet young children and have a bit of a play with young children. It reminds you of just why I know I and, of course, my colleague Minister Winton, why we do what we do. So I stand amongst you all here today, and I know that you know exactly what I mean when I say that it is impossible to overstate the vital role of early childhood education and the foundation that it provides for our children and for their futures. We can’t overstate what it means for the type of Australia we want now and into the future, both socially, culturally and economically. 

One of the wonderful things that make early childhood education and care so important is, of course, play-based learning. And fundamental to quality early childhood education and care is a child’s right – a child’s right – to fun, a child’s right to play and a child’s right to energetic play. There’s a longstanding and very strong evidence that children learn best through play-based programs, supporting not only their learning but also their development. And achieving better learning and development outcomes for children through energetic play and through physical activity is fundamental to Telethon’s vision for happy, healthy kids. 

The Albanese Government shares this vision with you. It’s central to a future where all children have equitable access to quality affordable early childhood education and care, no matter what their background, no matter where they live. And I want you to think about this for a moment, because all of us here today are here because we have a passion for children, for their development and for their wellbeing. But together we hold in our hands the ability to help children overcome disadvantage. And I’ve said this many, many times before and I’ll continue to say this because this is what drives what I do – that no child born into disadvantage should have to carry that disadvantage through their lives. I know that each and every person here firmly believes that, as I do, and it’s what drives everything that we do. 

As a government, we understand this responsibility also, and we’re taking action to address it. I’m sure you’re aware that we introduced changes to the child care subsidy which have resulted on average in 11 per cent more affordability for parents for their children for early childhood education and care. Importantly, we also made changes to the activity test for our First Nations children providing 36 hours of subsidised care per fortnight regardless of their family circumstances or their activity level. 

And we’re developing an early years strategy – and I thank the Telethon Kids Institute for the role that they have played in the government’s early years strategy – shaping a vision for Australia’s children and for their families. That strategy will see a more integrated holistic approach to early years now and into the future. 

We’ve got our Productivity Commission looking at how we can make the whole of early childhood education and care system more affordable, more accessible and, importantly, more inclusive. And we have the ACCC – the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – looking into early childhood education and care pricing and market operation. 

All of these important pieces of work along with the important work that the state government is doing will come together as we chart the course for universal access to quality, inclusive and affordable early childhood education for every Australian child in the great Labor traditions of Medicare and superannuation, developing a future where children are happy, where they’re healthy and where they can play freely. 

Now, I come from the generation of go outside and play and don’t come home until dinner’s ready. Hands up if you’re from that generation. I notice all the young people have their hands down. And so that brings me to this wonderful Play Active guide we’re here to launch today. This resource provides early childhood educators and care services with resources, practical ideas, strategies, importantly, all evidence based, and 14 practical and easy-to-understand and implement procedures for active play. 

It will help increase energetic play, especially in outdoor settings where kids can be loud and messy. But this morning I think Minister Winton and I also got a bit loud and messy, and there was quite a bit of huff and puff this morning. And any adult who has spent more than 10 minutes playing with children knows just how much energy it takes to keep up with them. 

We want to see children being able to enjoy the freedom to try new things, to making big moments but also some mistakes. Learning, learning through play. And I challenge anyone here – because I know you know this, but I challenge you – ever since I’ve been the Minister for Early Childhood Education and Care and I’ve had all of these wonderful opportunities to visit early learning centres and to meet these little Australians, one of the things that I’m constantly in awe of is watching how they learn as they play. The way that they learn to put things together, you know, that hand-eye coordination, the throwing and the catching of a ball, the running along. You only – it’s almost tangible. You can almost feel the learning happening as they play. And so while I also meet a lot of critics or people who don’t understand play, one of the things I tell them is to go and watch children as they play and you can basically see them learning as they play. 

This resource will help children not only improve their balance and their coordination skills but play will also help them to expand their creativity. It will provide an environment where they can take chances and they can build resilience from these experiences. What a wonderful foundation. What a wonderful foundation to build upon for our children. 

So I am so very – so very – delighted to launch the Telethon Kids Institute Play Active Resource Guide today. I highly recommend not only reading the guide but using it too. We’re going to get in some huff and puff ourselves I think. And I am incredibly proud to be a part of a government that is helping hundreds of children through early childhood education and care services right across Australia to use this important guide, to really help it get out there and give this benefit to so many children right across Australia. 

The Albanese Government is investing $1.7 million through the Medical Research Future Fund to expand Play Active nationwide following a very successful trial right here in WA. The national rollout is going to start in Queensland and South Australia with Play Active reaching hundreds of early learning services across states and territories over the next four years. I believe the goal is around 700. 

So congratulations. Congratulations, Professor Haley. I know that as a, you know, professor myself, when you see the fruition of 10 years of research, it does feel like you’ve been researching something for a very long time. But to see the fruits of your labour and in such a practical way I think it’s something that you should be incredibly proud of. So congratulations to you and to your team, of course. And thank you, Jonathan, and congratulations to you, and to the Telethon Kids Institute on creating this important, practical and very successful tool. 

Now, I look forward to continuing to work with the Telethon Kids Institute and with all the people here on improving early childhood education and care and with my counterpart at the state level, Minister Winton. Together all of us, together with organisations like Telethon, like the researchers, the educators, the advocates, the pracademics, I truly believe – I truly believe – that we can create the best early childhood education system in the world. Thank you.