This paper provides an overview of the national policy framework for the provision of universal access to early childhood education in Australia.
The imperative to provide universal access to early childhood education (ECE) is supported by a significant body of research that demonstrates the benefits of ECE for later life outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged children.
Prior to 2009, the provision of early childhood (preschool) education in Australia was the sole responsibility of state and territory governments. The only financial support from the Australian Government was Supplementary Recurrent Assistance for Indigenous preschool education, which still continues.
The development of a national commitment to universal access to ECE for children in the year before full-time schooling began in 2006 when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) committed to improving early childhood development outcomes as part of a collaborative national approach. COAG also agreed to undertake work to support families to improve childhood development outcomes in the first five years of a child’s life. These commitments resulted in the development of a suite of interrelated national partnerships and other government initiatives designed to improve the provision of ECE and child care.