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Five-point plan to help end early learning inequality in rural and remote Australia

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Five-point plan

A coalition of educators, childcare advocates and health service providers in regional areas, including Royal Far West and Thrive by Five, has released a five-point plan for early learning reform in rural and remote Australia aimed at ensuring equal opportunity for city and country kids.

The Thrive by Five Rural and Remote Five Point Plan calls for the following urgent action from the Federal Government:

  1. A dedicated funding model for a sustainable and viable early childhood education and care system in rural and remote communities regardless of location, setting, income or hours.
  2. Early childhood education and care to become part of the National Cabinet reform agenda to deal with complexities of the system and build a true national universal system.
  3. Agree to a new national agreement to deliver universal three-year-old preschool across the country to match the partnership agreement in place for four-year-old preschool.
  4. Make the Childcare Subsidy available to all children regardless of the setting and the income or work status of the parents. Lift the Childcare Subsidy to 95% for all children and set agreed fee caps.
  5. Start workforce planning for universal access and fund appropriate pay and flexible conditions for educators to end the problem of skill shortages, high vacancy rates and high staff turnover rates across the sector.
Five-point plan

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, Minderoo Foundation is a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration against cancer and building community projects.

Royal Far West is a national charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of country children. Royal Far West CEO Jacqui Emery said, “Every Australian child deserves access to high-quality and affordable early learning regardless of their postcode or their family circumstances.

“Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he wants universal childcare to be part of the great Australian story and the five-point plan released today is the blueprint for understanding the specific needs and context for delivering early learning reform for children in rural and remote areas.

“The NSW Government has also signalled it will use the upcoming State Budget to invest more in early learning and we welcome this as an opportunity for investing in early learning across all of the state, regardless of postcode.

“Being born in the regions shouldn’t disadvantage any Australian child, hold back their development or make it tougher for families. Yet alarmingly, children living in rural and remote areas of Australia are twice as likely to start school developmentally vulnerable than city kids and this gap is widening

“For decades to come, the fate of rural and remote communities will depend on what the Federal and state governments do for our children now. We urge the Federal government to prioritise early learning reform in rural and remote areas and ensure it’s at the heart of the legacy they want to create on early education and care,” she said.

  • A Mitchell Institute report released in March found families in regional, rural and remote areas are the most at risk of suffering from poor access to early learning.
  • The Deserts and oases: How accessible is childcare in Australia? Report shows just over 30% per cent of families living in major cities live in areas the researchers classified as a childcare desert, compared with 42.6% and 62.6% of people living in inner regional and outer regional neighbourhoods.
  • The contrast is even more stark with remote and outer remote areas having the highest levels of childcare deserts at 87.5% and 79.9%.
  • About 453 remote towns did not have a childcare centre within a 20-minute drive.

Thrive by Five Director Jay Weatherill said, “The evidence is overwhelming on the impact of good quality early learning in fuelling children’s development and giving them a good start in life.”

“Early learning can be a great equaliser for children, helping them start formal learning on an equal par with their peers.

“Women, children and families in rural and remote areas should not be disadvantaged in their access to high-quality early learning and support.

“It’s time to bridge the divide, invest more in early learning in rural and remote areas and support children’s development, women’s workforce participation and local economies,” he said

The launch of the Thrive by Five Rural and Remote Five Point Plan took place at NSW Parliament.

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