Early Years Strategy to provide Australia’s children with the best start possible

Children’s policy, funding and programs should no longer be siloed, with better integration and coordination needed to give all children in Australia the best start in life, according to the Albanese Labor Government’s Early Years Strategy, released today.

The ten-year roadmap sets out an overarching vision for children in Australia, along with clear goals to ensure little children aged 0-5, and their families, can learn, grow and thrive.

The first five years of a child’s life, including the antenatal period, is a critical developmental window that sets children up for lifelong success and the Government wants to deliver a new, integrated, holistic, whole-of-Commonwealth approach to the early years.

Delivering on an election commitment, the Strategy acknowledges the important role parents and caregivers have in their child’s life and seeks to provide the information and skills they need to raise nurtured, safe, connected and healthy children.

The Strategy is built on five key Principles, eight Outcomes and four Priority Focus Areas where the Government will direct effort to achieve its goals, including:

  • Valuing the early years;
  • Empowering parents, caregivers and families;
  • Supporting and working with communities; and
  • Strengthening accountability and coordination

Its development was guided by an expert 14-member Early Years Strategy Advisory Panel including children’s entertainer Emma Watkins, child health expert Professor Fiona Stanley and CEO of SNAICC Catherine Liddle. A Progress Update on the Government’s work to date in the early years will also be released today alongside the Strategy. Practical steps and to achieve the vision in the Strategy will be outlined in three Action Plans to be released over the ten-year lifetime of the document. The first will be released later this year, along with an Outcomes Framework.

To further assist realising the goals in the Strategy, the Government will establish a new Parents and Carers Reference Group to drive implementation.

The Group delivers on the Strategy’s first Priority Focus Area: valuing the early years by embedding the voices of children and their families in our policies, programs and services.

The Group, which will consist of around 20 members, will provide a forum to hear from parents and carers on future reform activity and new policies and programs for families with children aged 0-12 years, and provide opportunities to hear directly from children on matters that affect them.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said for too long children’s policy was siloed and the Strategy would help chart the direction to mobilise Government to best assist families and children.

“Parents and caregivers don’t see their children through one policy or departmental lens, and neither should the Government,” Minister Rishworth said.

“In the first few years of life, more than one million neural connections are formed in our brains each second – a pace never repeated again.

“Through the Strategy, we have the opportunity to create an integrated approach to these critical early years, and increase accountability to the wellbeing, education, and development of Australia’s children.”

Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly said with 90 per cent of brain development occurring in the first five years of a child’s life we have an important window to get things right.

“If we get these vital early years right we can change the trajectory of a child’s life, setting them up to thrive throughout life regardless of their background or postcode,” Dr Aly said.

“This exciting Strategy has been shaped by extensive consultation with service providers, educators, academics, peak organisations, communities, families, carers and importantly children.

“Today’s launch is another important step towards reaching our vision of an Australia where all children are able to thrive right into adulthood – building on our Cheaper Child Care reforms, which have made early learning more affordable for over 1 million families right across the country.”

A full version of the Early Years Strategy and the evidence used to underpin the Strategy is available at www.dss.gov.au/families-and-children-programs-services/early-years-strategy.