SNAICC Breakfast Speech

Release Date: 
13 February 2014

At the outset I would just say thank you to Angela and Geraldine and SNAICC, your organisation, as well as the other co-organisations, ACOSS, UNICEF and Early Childhood Australia, for putting on the breakfast this morning.

Also, thank you for allowing, particularly the parliamentarians, to hear more about the work that you do and the contribution that you are making to our community.

We’ve got a bunch of IAC members here today, and it’s terrific to have those members here listening to the presentations.

And of course I would also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land the Ngambri-Ngunnawal people.

Yesterday the Prime Minister delivered the annual Closing the Gap statement and unfortunately as is the tradition, it was a bit of a mixed statement.

There are six indicators and in three of them we are doing less well.

But on two of them we’re actually doing exceptionally well. And those two directly relate to the early years - child mortality and providing access to early childhood education for all four year olds in remote communities across Australia.

So in that regard we can, in some respects, collectively pat ourselves on the back.

But more importantly I would like to thank you for your contribution towards meeting those targets.

Because so many people in this room are at the forefront of that and at the forefront of providing that access to those early childhood education centres.

But I would also say this - that while we can be thankful that we will be able to reach the targets on those early years, we clearly have more work to do. Providing  access and having kids enrol in early childhood education is the first step.

The next step is actually having kids regularly attend those centres.

And I think that needs to be our next priority.

If kids are regularly attending those early childhood education centres, then they would be prepared to go to school. They would learn the discipline of attending regularly, they would learn the behaviours of interacting with others, and they would be more likely to attend and to progress at school.

Until we get that regular attendance at good preschools, and good schools, I feel we will never truly be able to address some of the other Closing the Gap indicators where we are not doing that well.

And in some cases doing exceptionally poorly - and that is in literacy and numeracy in primary and secondary schools.

Now the government has got several things in traction which relates to the early years which we’ve been focussing on this morning.

Perhaps most importantly, is the Productivity Commission Inquiry looking at the early childhood education space.

And that particularly has been stimulated by the concern across all communities, including Indigenous communities about the financial barriers which many people are facing.

So that is going to be one thing that the Productivity Commission Inquiry will look at.

And in parallel with that, there is a broader review of Indigenous specific programs which is occurring.

I can’t say much more than that at this stage.

But I do know the urgency of the some of the issues which have been raised today.

What I can say though is that the Prime Minister is absolutely determined - a determination that I share - to ensure that no child is invisible to the education and learning systems in our country.

He is determined that children are at good schools, and that they are learning, so that they can have the best opportunities at life.

And he is determined that kids can grow up in good strong safe environments.

Along with the two priorities of school attendance and safe environments, we add employment.

These have become the core sharp priorities of this government.

But it does start at the early years.

It does start with young children.

And I know that is the focus of your work.

I know that the work that your member organisations do, out on the field, out on the coalface does change the lives of individual children.

It does change families’ lives. I thank you for the work you are doing, and I thank you for putting on this breakfast today.