Early Childhood Educators Private Members Motion

12 February 2024

It's always a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk about early childhood education. Early learning educators do a vital job, making it possible for millions of other Australians to do their jobs too and supporting young children's early learning and development. Yet when we came to government we inherited a skills crisis in the early childhood education sector and many other sectors as well. In fact, we inherited the biggest skills shortage in 60 years. This how the Liberals and Nationals treated the TAFE and VET sectors.

This government has completely different approach. We are making it easier for Australians to gain the skills they need for a rewarding career in early childhood education. Through our fee-free TAFE policy we are addressing the skills shortage with an additional 300,000 fee-free TAFE places being rolled out from the start of this year, expanding on the success that we have already seen from the investment last year. I know that here in Canberra we have seen that taken up by many, many people at CIT. Because of this government's policy, we saw 14,304 fee-free enrolments in early childhood education and care cases from 1 January 2023 to 30 September 2023. Since coming to government Australia's early childhood education and care sector has grown by more than 20,000 workers. There are also a further 123,000 additional educators and teachers in the training pipeline. The Albanese government knows that supporting a pipeline of workers is critical to addressing the shortages in the sector left by those opposite.

Our government also understands that supporting the early childhood workforce includes not just praising the workforce but also providing a fair wage. Getting wages moving, particularly in low-paid, female-dominated sectors such as early childhood education and care, is a prominent feature of our economic policies. In partnership with stakeholders, we have already helped deliver a 4.6 per cent award increase in 2022 and a 5.75 per cent award increase in 2023 for 113,000 early childhood educators.

Our government is also working with the sector to develop and deliver practical solutions to retain staff while continuing to develop and strengthen recruitment and training pathways. We have already funded university places for early education teachers as well as fee-free TAFE. We are also accelerating implementation of the National Children's Education and Care Workforce Strategy to address workforce challenges in the short to long term.

Our government is also supporting the sector's workforce in the fight against inflation by giving every worker a tax cut. Under Labor's tax cut, early childhood educators and teachers will also be better off when compared to the previous government's plan. An early childhood educator at the start of their career earning $46,000 a year will now receive an $829 tax cut and an early childhood teacher earning $69,000 a year will receive a $1,404 tax cut.

It is important to recognise that a supported, valued workforce is critical to making early childhood education and care more accessible and affordable to Australian families. That's why we invested $72.4 million to support the skills and training of a quality and sustainable early childhood education and care sector. The funding helps staff to access professional development and complete the practical section of their study.

Our package will also help build skills and strengthen the supply of qualified early childhood education and care workers. This important investment will support the quality and highly trained early childhood education and care workforce through improved access to professional development opportunities, making it easier for educators to upskill and progress in their careers. The package includes targeted support to retrain staff and support skills development for educators, including those in regional and remote communities and First Nations early education staff and services. This vital investment will ensure high-quality early childhood educators remain in the sector, with clear opportunities for career advancement.

Our government is committed to supporting this sector by properly skilling its workforce, guaranteeing secure jobs and providing a positive place for our children in their earliest years to ensure the best start in life. It is only a Labor government that can be trusted to support our early childhood education and care sector. Clearly, while recognition is so important, it takes more than that. It takes investment in training opportunities and career pathways for these critical workers in our community.