Starting Better – Centre for Policy Development

Starting Better: A Guarantee for Young Children and Families

Starting Better: A guarantee for young children and families, is a major report from the Centre For Policy Development.

It draws on extensive consultation and research from the first year of our Early Childhood Development Initiative, including the work of the Early Childhood Development Council, an informal intergovernmental body comprising senior officials from all jurisdictions, ECD experts and sector leaders.

Starting Better Report - Centre for Policy Development

Starting Better proposes a Guarantee for Young Children and Families – a new pillar of Australia’s social deal that entitles every child in Australia and their family to:

  • Three days free or low-cost quality early education from birth until school, with more days available at minimal cost. This begins as soon as families need it. This means all children will experience the lifelong benefits of quality early education

  • More paid parental leave, shared between partners. This will give babies time with their parents in the crucial first year of life, and it will give families the confidence to balance work and home more easily and equally

  • Support for children and parents from within their community, including up to 25 visits from maternal and child health nurses

The Guarantee will simplify and integrate a currently confusing and expensive array of services and schemes, sharing information, tracking progress, and putting the needs of children and their families at the centre of Australia’s early childhood system.

This ambitious but deeply necessary suite of reforms will take place over a transformative decade, and will involve every level of government, as well as business, unions and civil society.

Delivering the Guarantee for Young Children and Families will build a generation of national prosperity, with lower health and crime bills, rewarding and secure jobs in early childhood education, and greater tax receipts from a smarter, healthier and more capable nation.

But that won’t be the only prize. Worth far more will be the experience of living in an Australia that is the best place in the world to be, and raise, a child.

Starting Better in the media

  • The Australian covered the release of the report.
  • CPD fellow and ECD Council co-chair Leslie Loble and Travers McLeod published an op-ed in the 9 Newspapers mastheads on how the Guarantee for Young Children and Families can make Australia the best place in the world to be a child, and to raise one.
  • Ken Henry, former Treasury Secretary, wrote an op-ed about the social and economic benefits of the Guarantee in The Australian
  • The Sector covered the support that early childhood sector advocates have given for the report.
  • Women’s Agenda covered the report.
  • The report has been covered on radio news nationally, including an interview with Professor Leslie Loble and National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollands on RN Drive.
  • CEO Travers McLeod appeared on 7:30 last week, where he highlighted the importance of making early childhood education and care one of the most rewarding career options for Australians.
  • CEO Travers McLeod appeared on News Breakfast and Sky News Australia to discuss the report.

Praise for Starting Better

National Children's Commissioner

It’s time to make children our national priority. We need a vision and a plan to accelerate change so that Australia can be the best place to raise a child and to be a child. Our existing fragmented and ineffective services are failing our children. Affordable improvements can be achieved by action based on the evidence, but we need to start now.

“Starting Better” offers the evidence and the inspiration of a promise to our children and their families. There is no purpose more compelling than the development and wellbeing of our children and a better future for us all.

Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation

Our children are our future leaders, the custodians of our stories, our histories, our cultures and our languages.  It is incumbent upon us all to develop a coordinated national system that empowers capable, positive communities to engage children and families with genuine support and opportunities to create a future of hope, inquiry, understanding and achievement.  

 Education is a powerful determinant for health and social well being as well as contributing to the productivity, economy and overall well being of the nation. The entrenchment of the Starting Better early childhood guarantee will be welcomed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

A message to the youngest Australian citizensYou, little child, put in the imagination and curiosity and we, the adults of this nation, guarantee enthusiastic, focussed and coordinated effort to ensure that you thrive to reach, and leap beyond, your potential into a bright future. This is our guarantee to you and your family.  As young as you are now, you are our leaders of tomorrow. Together we all thrive 

Business Council of Australia

Our goal as a nation should be to have a world class early years childhood development system. The Federal Government recently made changes to the childcare system which is a positive step in the right direction but our current system remains overly complicated and no longer meets the needs of modern Australian families. 

The Business Council of Australia strongly supports transforming the early years’ service system. From increasing paid parental leave entitlements to minimum access to early childhood education and care and preschool, an ‘early childhood guarantee’ puts children at the centre of policy development and will help ensure each child can develop to their full potential. This is a significant reform opportunity, the benefits of which to our society and our economy are immeasurable. 

Early Childhood Australia

Early Childhood Australia supports the call for a guarantee for young children and their families to ensure that every child, in every community, regardless of their circumstances, can access the services they need to thrive and learn the foundation skills for lifelong learning. 

High quality early education and care sets children up for a lifetime of engagement in education, the benefits are long lasting across education achievement, employment outcomes, healthy relationships as well as wellbeing and mental health well into adulthood. This is the best investment we can make to improve life outcomes for all Australian children.

United Workers Union

Australia needs a conversation about early education and the support we provide young children. We all know we can and should do better – for children, for families, for the workforce and for the community. This report frames the conversation as a promise. Children understand promises and their importance. Let’s not let them down.

Ian Potter Foundation

The wellbeing of Australian children is of paramount importance to us all. With nearly one in four children starting primary school without the foundations of literacy and numeracy, it’s clear that we must do far better to address this matter. 

Starting Better shows us how we can give all children and their families the tools they need to flourish and reach their full potential, and build a fairer, more sustainable and more prosperous country for every Australian.

Minderoo Foundation

Australia can judge its performance as a nation on how well we equip our children to be kind, capable, productive and resilient.

The early years of our children’s lives are where Australia can make the biggest difference — for them, their families and for the nation.

 Right now, we are letting children and families down.

 For the first time in my two decades of advocacy on early childhood, Starting Better provides a concrete, comprehensive and measurable path to long-term solutions through the ‘Guarantee for Children and their Families’.

When this Guarantee is enacted it will support generations of Australians to thrive for decades to come.

Paul Ramsay Foundation

At the core of Starting Better is a guarantee of service and support for young children and their families. Recognising the complexity of policy implementation, change is proposed through a stepped program – expanded paid parental leave, a focus on material and child health, wrap around services including universal early childhood education and care, 2 years of pre-school and, finally, integration of early childhood services in primary school.

This roadmap shows a better way to 2030, with long-term benefits for young Australians, their families and the entire community.

Professor Glyn Davis AC, CEO, Paul Ramsay Foundation

Royal Far West

Tackling developmental vulnerability is important for all Australian children, but particularly in rural and remote communities where one in five are developmentally vulnerable and services and outcomes frequently inequitable. Healthy development lays the foundation for a healthy life. Early intervention is key and this is where access to good quality childcare, no matter where you live, is imperative.

Chief Executive Women

Starting Better’s proposal of a guarantee for young children and families is what working parents in our country need.

Right now an inability to access affordable, quality early childhood education and care is forcing thousands of women into an impossible choice between their profession and their family.

Providing a universal entitlement of three days free or low cost quality early education and care, alongside enhanced paid parental leave scheme shared between partners in line with global best practice, will set Australia on a course to a more prosperous, equitable future where family and work are shared between partners, where early childhood education and care  is a rewarding  and secure long-term career, and where children are given the opportunity to thrive regardless of their income postcode or family circumstances.

That is the kind of country we want to become.


I am convinced the ‘early childhood guarantee’ work being done in this dialogue will be a game changer in clarifying, simplifying and then amplifying public expectations around the early years.

  • Senior government official, member of the Early Childhood Development Council

Adjunct Professor Michael Hogan

At a time when one in five children starts school developmentally vulnerable, we urgently need a long-term policy pathway towards a country where every child and their family can thrive. 

Starting Better, overseen by a coalition of the key stakeholders, interest groups and decision-markers from across the early childhood policy spectrum, provides that pathway in its Guarantee for Children and Their Families.

The Parenthood

The Parenthood welcomes a new guarantee for young children and their families to ensure that every child in Australia has an opportunity to realise their potential and thrive. The extent to which too many children miss out in Australia is not widely known. There is an assumption that as a nation we prioritise the wellbeing, development and education of young children which isn’t the case. 

Between the critical years between 0-5 every child needs support to thrive, and support for children begins with supporting their parents and caregivers. By implementing the Starting Better guarantee we would profoundly improve the lives and wellbeing of children and in doing so we would transform the future of Australia.


Quality schooling, healthcare and savings for retirement make Australia a great place to live. But we are failing to provide adequate support for parents and children in the years before school, to ensure they thrive. Starting Better sets an ambitious goal and a clear pathway for our promise for the future; to make Australia the best place in the world to be a child, and to raise one.

  • Troy Verhagen, Head of Commercial Strategy, Officeworks