Early Years Strategy Launch


Thank you Patricia for that introduction.

And a big thank you to Playgroup Australia and Playgroup NSW for hosting today’s launch.

It’s so great to be with you all today on the traditional lands of the Gadigal and Bidjigal people.

I pay my respects to elders past and present.

To my colleague and partner in this early years journey – Anne Aly, Minister for Early Childhood Education and Minister for Youth – it’s great to be here with you.

I would also like to acknowledge members of the Early Years Strategy Advisory Panel who are joining us today:

  • Dr Amanda Walsh
  • Anne Hollands
  • Emma Watkins
  • Jamie Crosby
  • Matthew Cox
  • Penny Dakin
  • Samantha Page, and
  • Sylvana Mahmic

We appreciate your insight and expertise and for working with us for the past 18 months to deliver the Early Years Strategy.

Today, the Government is launching our Early Years Strategy, and its supporting evidence summary.

The Strategy delivers on a key election commitment – to create an integrated and coordinated approach to the early years, in order to realise our vision of all children thriving.

As a psychologist before I came into politics, I know how the early years is a critical window of opportunity where it is possible to positively influence the trajectory of a child’s life.

It’s not news to all of you here today, but it is a statistic that still astounds me – that more than one million neural connections are formed in our brains each second in those critical first few years of live. A pace never repeated again.

If we can get it right in the early years, we have the opportunity to prevent so many issues further down the track.

We can help to break cycles of entrenched disadvantage and affect intergenerational change.

That’s why this Strategy is so important.

It outlines our vision for young children to thrive in their early years. It outlines the principles that will guide us, the outcomes we are striving for and the areas we will focus on.

Minister Aly and I have jointly led the development of this Early Years Strategy.

To ensure it reflects the views and needs of parents, children and communities, we heard from around 4,000 people from across the country about what is important to them. We heard from kids, parents, caregivers, families, community members and the early years workforce.

Based on what we heard, we identified four priority focus areas. This is where the Government will direct our efforts to achieve the Strategy’s vision – that all children thrive in their early years.

The four priority areas are:

  1. Valuing the early years;
  2. Empowering parents, caregivers and families;
  3. Supporting and working with communities; and
  4. Strengthening accountability and coordination.

Over the ten-year life of the Strategy, we will develop three action plans, which will outline practical steps in line with these priorities.

From our consultations, we heard loud and clear from parents and caregivers that accessing support in the early years can be confusing and difficult to navigate. The system has many separate but connected parts across health, allied health, parenting support, and early childhood education and care. Programs and services can be delivered by different levels of government, non-government providers and community organisations. 

As one parent told us, we need to “integrate services more so that all the services we use are connected to support the child – lift this integration work off parents”.

And it is confusing and frankly exhausting for parents when there is unnecessary duplication of services or steps to take when trying to find the best resources or support for their family.

I’ll give you an example. Through the development of this Strategy, my Department mapped over 50 Government hosted or funded websites that provide parents with information on parenting advice, and on services and supports for their families.

Many of these say many of the same things.

We will do better and this Strategy is a commitment that the Commonwealth will work to addressing it.

That’s why one of the four Priority Areas is: Strengthening accountability and coordination.

This is a priority area not just for myself and Minister Aly, but right across government.

Actions for better integration and coordination will be key as we develop the first Action Plan to underpin the Strategy.

Throughout 2024 we will also develop an Outcomes Framework to provide measurable indicators of progress and strengthen accountability for Government.

In addition to this message about duplication, parents and caregivers involved in consultations on the Strategy also told us how they want to be seen as the experts in their own children’s lives.

As their child’s first and most important teacher, they themselves need support to help their child learn and grow.

Ensuring supports and services are responsive and inclusive for all children and their parents will be part of the work we explore moving forward in delivering on the Strategy.

To ensure Government is responding to the Strategy’s Priority Area of empowering parents, caregivers and families, I am pleased to announce today that we are establishing a new, ongoing Parents and Carers Reference Group, who will help drive implementation of the Early Years Strategy over the next ten-years.

This group will make sure the perspectives of parents and carers are at the heart of all our future policies, programs and services.

It will allow us to hear from parents and caregivers about what they and their children need and don’t need, what they think works and doesn’t work, and provide valuable insight on how and when they want to access supports.

We will also be ensuring the perspectives of little children will be incorporated into the Action Plans and will continue to work on mechanisms to do this. This includes through our recent announcement to establish a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner.

Of course, we are not starting at the beginning. We will build on the strong investments and downpayments we have already made in valuing the early years.

Our Government has enhanced the economic security of families by expanding Paid Parental Leave and paying superannuation on it, investing in cheaper child care, strengthening support for single parents.

We’ve also focused on how we build the infrastructure of support for families and children outside of early childhood education, including through our investments in playgroups and toy libraries which has resulted in more than 300 new playgroups delivered or being delivered under our Government.

This Early Years Strategy is deeply aligned with our other strategies – Safe and Supported and our National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children – to deliver on a key outcome that children are nurtured and safe.

The clear direction of the Strategy is that Government along with the broader community need to value little children more and do things differently to improve the outcomes in the early years.

In this spirit of this and prioritising investment in the early years, I am pleased to announce today that under our $100 million Outcomes Fund, one of three focus areas will be supporting positive outcomes for families and children to prevent cycles of intergenerational and community disadvantage.

There are many areas that our Outcomes Fund could have been targeted towards but as a result of our Government’s commitment to the early years we have chosen it as a key area for this Fund’s direction.

The Outcomes Fund is different to how we usually fund programs and services and in practice means community organisations will be encouraged and funded to be innovative in the way they work.

Often community organisations know how best to help people in their community and can be frustrated that they do not receive funding to do those activities because of the narrow funding arrangements.

The Outcomes Fund will change this by giving flexibility to service providers to adapt and innovate their services so they are tailored to the needs of families and their children.

This new way of working in the early years directly reflects the priority focus area in the Strategy to support and work with communities and to find local solutions to local problems.

With the Early Years Strategy we have laid the foundation to provide all Australian children with the opportunity to grow, learn, play and thrive.

We’ve got the foundation which we will continue to build on to give all children the opportunities to have the best start to life – nothing is more important.

I’d like to give a special thanks again to the Advisory Panel members who have worked hard over the past 18-months in delivering this Strategy.

I’d also like to thank Dr Chris Mason from the Front Project who ran sessions with kids aged three to five to hear what matters most to them and ensure children’s perspectives were part of our Strategy.

I would like to thank all of the parents, caregivers and children here with us today at this special playgroup event. And thank you to the staff from my department – the Department of Social Services – along with those from Department of Education, who have worked hard to get us to this point.

I’m proud of our Early Years Strategy.

Today is another important step to ensure little children are valued and elevated in our Government action.

Thank you.