This is the text of my keynote address at the Little People, Big Dreams Conference organised by Child Australia. It was delivered at the Darwin Convention Centre on Saturday 13 October 2018.
You’ll have seen a lot of it on Facebook. Advertising for a PD course, or a new centre, or a consultant. There’ll be a bit of text, overlaid over a large image of a child doing something “cute”. Maybe the child is wearing a small suit, sitting behind a desk. So cute! Maybe they’re in a pilot’s uniform, holding a steering wheel. How adorable – they’re pretending to be fly the plane!
Despite only making up 3.9% of the early childhood educator workforce in “long day care” settings, men account for 54% of top leadership roles.
I’ve talked pretty endlessly on this blog, and on the Early Education Show podcast, about my concerns about the Federal Government’s new Child Care Package (formally known as the Jobs for Families Package, which tells you quite succinctly everything you need to know about these reforms). They’re bad for children, they’re bad for the sector, and the sector should not have supported them in any way.
As we heave ourselves over the line into 2018, the year that will see the introduction of this new legislation, I wanted to highlight an issue I am worried is not getting anywhere near enough attention.
Losing an advocacy battle is hard. When the Jobs for Families (JFF) legislation was passed in February this year, I was devastated. Despite spending over a year arguing my hardest that this package would fundamentally undermine children’s right to access early education, the package passed. From July 2018, the children in our country most at risk of vulnerability and with the most to gain from high-quality early learning will be locked out.
I realised this week that there might be something even harder – losing a battle we didn’t even know we were fighting.
45 children still remain in some form of detention on Nauru and on mainland Australia. What we have done to these children will haunt them for the remainder of their lives.
I am not one of those courageous few who devote their every day to changing those facts. People in organisations like Save the Children, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and others.
I work in early childhood, and I write. I’m incredibly privileged and fortunate in every area of my life. I have no idea if my writing can help, but I would like to make a small gesture – even if a gesture is all it will be.
After years of floundering under successive early childhood ministers (and Prime Ministers), the Jobs for Families Package – now wrapped up into a ridiculous Omnibus Bill – is likely to come before Parliament in the next two weeks.
It seems likely that within the next few weeks, the Government’s long-promised and much-analysed early childhood education and care reforms – under the telling title the “Jobs for Families” Package” – will finally come to a vote in the Parliament.
I’ve been writing and speaking about this Package for more than a year now. I am as firmly opposed to it now as I was then, if not more so. As we’re approaching a time where it may either pass and become law, or fail and surely be a wake up call to a Government that has got this policy area so wrong, I thought it might be helpful to clearly and simply articulate my position on this package.
It seems that we’re extremely close to an announcement that the refugees illegally imprisoned in Australian-funded and managed island trauma factories will be sent to a variety of other countries as part of some byzantine Government negotiations.
I’m writing this quickly to make a point regarding this announcement – the specifics don’t matter. The arrangements don’t matter. What matters is the people (including children) at the centre of all this.
In August, 132 early childhood professionals sent letters to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, calling on the Government to end the inhumane treatment of child refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.
Today I received a response – it can be viewed here. I have also posted the text below.
While I am pleased that the Department took the time to reply, I am not happy with their response – nor that the Minister or Prime Minister did not reply personally.