Starting better: A guarantee for young children and families



Starting better header image - a child holding out a painted hand

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.

It proposes a guarantee for young children and families to simplify and integrate a currently confusing and expensive array of services and schemes, sharing information, tracking progress. 

The proposal will put 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.

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Starting Better proposes a guarantee for young children and families – a new pillar of Australia’s social deal.

Delivering the guarantee will make Australia the best place to be a child, and raise a family.

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

At a glance

Raising children is the most important thing we do — as parents and as a society. It takes more than a village to raise a child, it takes a nation. It is our duty to our children, as parents and as citizens, to give them what they need to flourish now and throughout their lives.

Starting Better presents a comprehensive body of evidence to help Australia give children and families what they need to thrive in their early years and throughout their lives, and proposes a Guarantee for Young Children and Families through a series of reforms over the coming decade. Starting Better is the product of 12 months of work from the Centre for Policy Development’s Early Childhood Development Initiative.

The initiative and report have drawn on CPD’s scoping study and informal inter-governmental Early Childhood Development Council comprising senior officials from all Australian jurisdictions, ECD experts and sector leaders.

Downloads for Starting Better

What is the guarantee for young children and families?

The Guarantee makes clear what every young child and family needs for the best start in life. It is an entitlement Australians can rely on, regardless of where they live, how much money they have, or what their family looks like.

We have several guarantees in Australia now, such as free quality schooling to the end of Year 12 and healthcare. A Guarantee for Young Children and Families would accompany these as part of the social deal that binds Australian communities.

The Guarantee ensures:

  • Babies get time with their parents
  • Quality early education for all
  • Family support in the local community

“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.”


Sam Mostyn AO

President, Chief Executive Women

Why do we need this?

The Guarantee recognises that young children and families flourish when they can access a holistic range of support. It is based on global and local evidence of what has the greatest impact and what will work best for Australian children and families.

Children who thrive in their early years flourish throughout their lives.

starting better

Right now, we fail too many children and families.

What are the financial implications?

The Guarantee is a large investment, with an initial annual investment of $2 billion that rises to $20 billion by 2030. Starting Better projects the Guarantee to be cost neutral by full implementation in 2030 and we estimate that higher tax revenue, business savings and reduced government spending on welfare, health and the justice system will deliver a net return of $15 billion annually by 2045.

This aligns with a global and national research consensus that the policies in the Guarantee are the path to significant gains to productivity, wellbeing and women’s economic security, and that early childhood investment has a positive long-term economic impact.

How does the starting better guarantee generate returns?

The Guarantee delivers a triple dividend, with lifelong benefits for children, for parents, for early childhood professionals and for national prosperity.

These benefits include:

  • Increased access to the workforce for mothers An increased number of more secure, higher-paying jobs in the growing early childhood education sector.
  • Higher educational attainment for children, and greater workforce participation when they grow up.
  • Happier, healthier and more prosperous lives for children who experience the Guarantee Higher tax revenues and lower health, crisis and policing costs for governments.

Praise for Starting Better

Starting Better in the media

Just over a year ago we brought together people from across Australia to ask what we need to make our country a better place to be a child, and to raise one. It was a big question, but an urgent
A new report is proposing a decade of reforms to create a guarantee for young children and families. The Centre for Policy Development's Travers McLeod says one in five Australian children start school developmentally vulnerable.
The Centre for Policy Development (CPD) today released the Starting Better report, recommending a decade of reforms across all levels of government to provide children and their families with tools they need to do well.
A number of major early childhood education and care (ECEC) advocacy bodies, including Early Childhood Australia and the United Workers Union have spoken out in support of a new report released today by the Centre for Policy Development
With its recent report Starting Better: A Guarantee for Australian Children and Families, the Centre for Policy Development challenges us to do all we can to help Australia’s children grow and flourish.
Australia needs to make massive new investments in the health of babies and young children including by guaranteeing more paid parental leave shared between partners, according to the Centre for Policy Development.