Early Years Strategy and National Summit to ensure Australia’s children have the best start at life

The Albanese Labor Government is delivering on its commitment to improve the lives of all children in Australia by developing a Commonwealth Early Years Strategy.

The Strategy will create a new integrated, holistic, whole-of-government approach to ensure children aged five and below have the best start at life in their critical early years of development.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth will lead development of the Strategy in partnership with Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly.

It will be developed through extensive consultation and stakeholder engagement.

To assist in crafting the Strategy, and start the important conversations needed around helping young children to thrive, the Government will host a National Early Years Summit on Friday 17 February 2023 in Parliament House.

Around 100 attendees will be invited to the Summit in the Great Hall.

The Summit will have input from Minister Rishworth and Dr Aly, along with all relevant Departments including Health, Education, Attorney-Generals and the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

Treasury and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet will also contribute.

Minister Rishworth said a total of $4.2 million would be invested over 18 months until 2024 to support the development of the Strategy.

“More than any other time in life, the early years are a time when we can positively influence life outcomes, After all, the biggest area of brain development occurs before children turn five,” Minister Rishworth said.

“It’s time we ended the isolated policy approach and leverage the mountain of evidence that exists to best support our children.

“By getting it right in the early years of a child’s life, we can help set the foundations for a happy, healthy, and successful future.”

“Creating a better Australia rests on the opportunities we create for our children and benefits everyone.

“Our National Summit in particular will help start a conversation on how to best support Australia’s children and their families in the early years.”

Dr Aly said our children are our most precious resource, and with 90 per cent of brain development occurring in the first five years, it’s vital we get the early years right.

“This is about ensuring all Australian children get the best start in life no matter where they live or their background,” said Dr Aly.

“A lot goes into raising a happy and healthy child, that’s why we want to hear from families, early childhood educators and other experts.

“Our Summit for Aussie kids will make sure we provide the tools our future generations need to thrive.”

There will be many opportunities for all Australians, including children and families, to help shape the Strategy through surveys, public submissions, roundtables, local engagement and consultation from January 2023.

A new 14-member expert Advisory Panel has also been established to inform the development of Strategy.

The Advisory Panel will support the work of a Steering Committee designed to bring together all areas of Government.

Its membership includes:

  • Professor Sharon Goldfeld
  • Anne Hollonds
  • Catherine Liddle
  • Georgie Dent
  • Professor Fiona Stanley
  • Penny Dakin
  • Sylvana Mahmic
  • Jay Weatherill
  • Matthew Cox
  • Dr Helen Milroy
  • Samantha Page
  • Jamie Crosby
  • Emma Watkins 
  • Amanda Walsh 

Emma Watkins, who is currently studying a PhD focused on inclusive children’s entertainment and education through accessible music and play, said it was an “honour” to have been invited on the Advisory Panel and be able to have input on ensuring all children have access to varied communications systems.

“Auslan and visual communication systems are not just used by those in the deaf community, they are integral to pre-literal learning for any child. Gestures allow parents and carers to know the wants and needs of a child without spoken language,” Ms Watkins said.

“This is not just Australia-specific, however in Australia we still lack the support for our visual communications systems that benefit all children and their family support networks at home.

“By drawing on this Advisory Panel, as well as connecting with a multitude of experts – parents, carers, childhood development influencers across this country – I know the Government will build a strategy for the Early Years that will allow children to feel included and empowered and free to express themselves with communications systems that they feel comfortable using.”

More information about the Early Years Strategy is available at the Department of Social Services website.