MEDIA RELEASE: Starting Better: A Guarantee For Young Children and Families 

  • Starting Better report proposes a decade of reforms to create a Guarantee for Young Children and Families
  • The Guarantee includes three days a week quality early education to school age, greater community & health support for families, more paid parental leave shared between partners
  • The Guarantee will return a triple dividend of a healthier, more prosperous population, a more equal workforce for women and rewarding, secure jobs in the early childhood sector

22 NOVEMBER 2021 – Australia has the opportunity to institute a Guarantee for Young Children and Families to provide every child and their family with tools they need to flourish through their lives. 

The Starting Better report released today by the Centre for Policy Development recommends a decade of reforms across all levels of government to establish the Guarantee.

The Guarantee includes universal access to a minimum three days a week of free or low cost quality early education and care from birth to school age, including two years of preschool, up to 25 visits from maternal and child health nurses for new parents, and more paid parental leave shared between partners to give babies more time with parents in the crucial early months of life. 

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.

Delivering the Guarantee will return a triple dividend of setting children up to thrive, better work-life balance for families and more secure, rewarding jobs in the early childhood sector.  

Financially, the Guarantee would require an estimated initial annual investment of $2 billion, rising to $20 billion by 2030. It would generate returns from higher wages, increased workforce participation, savings on health and crime, and job creation for early childhood professionals. It is projected to be cost neutral when fully implemented in 2030 and to deliver a net economic return of $15 billion annually by 2045.

This aligns with the broad consensus among researchers in Australia and globally that investment in early childhood and development has a positive long-term economic impact. 

The Starting Better report is the culmination of the first 12 months of work in the Centre’s Early Childhood Development Initiative. It draws on the work of the Centre’s informal intergovernmental Early Childhood Development Council comprising senior officials from all jurisdictions, ECD experts and sector leaders.

Centre for Policy Development CEO Travers McLeod said Australia had the opportunity to build on social guarantees like primary and secondary schooling, and Medicare, by implementing the Guarantee for Children and Families.

“Early childhood is the launchpad for life. By delivering this Guarantee over the next decade we can make Australia the best place in the world to be a child, and to raise one,” Mr McLeod said. 

“Right now we are not delivering for young children and their families. Too many children and families start behind and never catch up. Early education is expensive and hard to access. Parents don’t have enough time with their children in those crucial early months, and support is often hardest to access for families who need it most.” 

“Committing to the Guarantee for Young Children and Families would be a transformational opportunity for Australia. Our children will flourish, families will more comfortably balance work and home, and we will create rewarding, secure careers in the early childhood sector.” 

Centre for Policy Development Fellow and ECD Council co-chair Leslie Loble said that the Guarantee for Young Children and Families was an ambitious and necessary reform program that would underpin Australian prosperity in the 21st Century. 

“The Guarantee for Young Children and Families articulated by Starting Better represents the foundations of a more prosperous, fair and flourishing Australia in the decades to come,” Ms Loble said. 

“It is the kind of nation-building reform that requires a committed consensus of policymakers, industry leaders and early education experts working together to reshape a nation so it more perfectly reflects the aspirations of its citizens and the best ambitions of its leaders. 

“As the co-chair of the Council for Early Childhood Development I believe the path towards a future where all children in our country are supported to thrive has been laid out in Starting Better. If the Guarantee for Children and Families becomes part of the fabric of Australia it will deliver social, economic and educational gains for many decades to come.”