This report looks at where we are now with early childhood education and care in Australia, what we want in the future and how we might go about achieving that in a way that better supports children's learning and development needs and the workforce participation of parents.
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) plays a vital role in the development of Australian children, their preparation for school and in enabling parents to participate in the workforce. Such outcomes are contingent on quality ECEC services being accessible and affordable for Australian families and their provision being flexible to match the variety of parents’ work arrangements. Since the introduction of ECEC funding on a wider scale in the 1980s and 1990s, governments have tweaked and patched assistance arrangements to improve the short term accessibility and affordability of ECEC services for families. In commissioning this inquiry, the Australian Government has acknowledged that it is now time to rethink Australia’s approach to ECEC.
The Commission was requested to examine and identify future options for ECEC that address current concerns with accessibility, flexibility and affordability in a way that better supports: children’s learning and development needs, including their transition to school; and workforce participation of parents, especially women. In particular, the Government requested the Commission to report and make recommendations on the contribution that access to affordable, high quality ECEC can make and to evaluate current and future needs for ECEC, including for families in rural, regional and remote areas, families with shift work arrangements, and families with vulnerable or at risk children.
The Commission was also asked to consider the impacts of regulatory changes in childcare over the past decade, other specific models for ECEC delivery (including those used overseas) and assess alternative mechanisms for Government to deliver support to families and providers. At the same time, the Government requested that any modifications to ECEC funding be based on funding arrangements that are sustainable for taxpayers and include options within current funding parameters.