Early Childhood

Early childhood development is of central importance to the wellbeing of Australia’s children and to the future wellbeing and productivity of the nation.

There are significant benefits to ensuring all children experience a positive early childhood, from before birth through the first eight years of life. Research shows that quality maternal, child and family health, early childhood education and care and family support programs make a significant difference to improving outcomes for children. There are particular benefits for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, early childhood services in Australia have not, until recently, benefited from a national focus.

In July 2009, COAG agreed to a National Early childhood Development Strategy, Investing in the Early Years, which will guide investment in future reforms to support around two million children and their families. 

Providing Access for All Children to Preschool

On 29 November 2008, the Commonwealth and the States and Territories signed the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education, an agreement to ensure that all children have access to a quality early childhood education program in the year before they go to school.

This early childhood education program, for preschool or kindergarten, is to be delivered by a four-year university-trained early childhood teacher, for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year. To implement this program the Commonwealth Government has committed $970 million to States and Territories over five years from 2008.

Governments have also agreed to the objective that all children will be enrolled in an early childhood education program by 2013. To date, it is likely that most States and Territories will achieve this objective.

The National Partnership also includes a specific commitment that by 2013 every Indigenous four year old in a remote community has access to a quality early childhood education program.


Closing the Gap on Indigenous Early Childhood Development

The National Partnership on Indigenous Early Childhood Development also supports COAG’s efforts in closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. For more information, see Closing the Gap on Indigenous Disadvantage


Better Child Care and Early Childhood Education

A new National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care started on 1 January 2012.  This new arrangement will deliver better quality services and promote good educational and developmental outcomes for Australian children attending long day care, family day care, outside school hours care and preschool. It focuses on:

  • better qualified staff and improved staff-to-child ratios that allow for more quality time to focus on individual children’s needs;
  • providing national uniform standards in education, health and safety, physical environment and staffing; and
  • introducing a new transparent ratings system that enables parents to compare services easily and make informed choices about which service best meets their child’s needs.

The new national approach replaces the various licensing and accreditation processes previously undertaken by the Commonwealth, States and Territories.  Under the new national framework, individual services only deal with one organisation for quality assessment, reducing the regulatory burden and enabling them to focus on the children in their care.


Keeping Australian Children Safe from Harm

Governments are working together to protect Australia’s children, through initiatives such as the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children and the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.

For more information, see the National Security and Community Safety section.