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Welcome to Community Early Learning Australia

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You don’t call your work ‘child care’ any more, and neither should we.  CEO Diane Lawson and our Board Directors write for Amplify! and the upcoming issue of Rattler magazine about the changes underway for Community Child Care Co-operative as it begins trading as Community Early Learning Australia.

“It’s good to open a new chapter; we’re on the right track.”

Our longest-serving board director, Maria Pender

Leading early learning

Some members of Community Child Care Co-operative NSW (CCCC) only know the organisation as it exists today, but it has evolved considerably over the past 40 years. And it must continue to change to ensure we can support you into the future

This issue of Rattler, now in its 30th year, brings news of a very necessary and deeply-considered next step for our organisation. But no major decision exists in isolation, so I’ll take you first on a short history of CCCC in the context of an ever-changing sector.

The Child Care Act 1972 provided funding ($6.5 million for the first year) only to non-profit organisations to operate ‘day care facilities for children of working and sick parents’.

In 1974, the Australian Government extended funding to support all children and not just children from families under financial or medical stress. In 1978, CCCC was created as an initiative of the NSW Council of Social Services using NSW Government funding.

In the 1970s and 1980s the Commonwealth extended funding to outside school hours care (OSHC) and, particularly, family day care (FDC) as those sectors established themselves and grew. In the 1990s, successive Labor and Liberal governments opened the doors to private sector involvement in early childhood services, and an element of quality accreditation was introduced.

The Childcare Cash Rebate (CCR) was created in 1994 and paid directly to families as another way of encouraging a supply and demand market and encouraging them to choose where to enrol their children. In the late 1980s and 1990s debate about public funding for private services was particularly fierce.

During these decades CCCC NSW continued to grow in experience and influence, but it remained heavily dependent on public money. Its funding was often threatened and it teetered at times between short and longer-term grants and project payments from the state or federal governments and it moved offices on several occasions.

The 1990s and early 2000s saw increasing government investment in family rebates of varying levels, and continued growth in the number of private providers. These providers ranged from the unsustainable giant, ABC Learning, to the still-strong NFP sector, to small businesses created by ‘mum-and-dad’ owners, often experienced ECTs who left community based organisations to set up their own services.

The collapse of ABC Learning in 2008 and the introduction of the National Quality Framework (NQF) in 2012 are perhaps the low and the high points for the sector so far this century. In particular, the educationally driven quality standards applying to all services under the NQF made it a priority for every credible operator to invest in and be accountable for the quality of ECEC they deliver.

The decade of plenty

During these years, CCCC experienced something of a golden era. In 2005 we became a Registered Training Organisation and in 2006 we won (and retained for the life of the program) Commonwealth funding to be the Professional Support Co-ordinator (PSC) for Children’s Services in NSW. Our first PSC contract was worth $12 million over three years, allowing us to deliver heavily subsidised training across NSW.

With this level of funding we were also able to grow the organisation and extend its reach in a way we had never done before. There were significant payments each and every year and our healthy financial position grew. With the wider skills base in the organisation and the constant federally-funded training activity we were also well placed to win some important NSW Government contracts and to develop important resources for the implementation of the NQF.

By the end of June 2016 however we faced radically different financial circumstances. Last year, as it had advised us a year or more before, the Australian Government cancelled the Inclusion and Professional Support Program, and with it our role as Professional Support Co-ordinator for NSW.
The impact was a loss of 60% of our base funding and the inability to offer the extreme training discounts of the past. This led to a massive decline in training registrations, a major source of revenue. The Board Chair, Wendy Lindgren, and I shared with you the significant issues this created in our 2016 Annual Report.
Put simply, it was not a matter of reducing our operations to 40% of the previous activity and carrying on. Our revenue was slashed and without a revolutionary response it was only going to keep falling.

“There’s a growing gap in interests between the biggest and the smallest early childhood service providers across Australia – there are people waiting for us to represent them at a national level.”

Our Board Chairperson, Wendy Lindgren

Silver linings

When faced with a dire situation you can give up gracefully or tackle it with vigour and innovation.

Your Board did not want to give up. They saw that the sector was changing, that you are changing, and so, they said, must we.
NSW community-based members may not be aware that for many years CCCC has had a significant number of private sector members, our ‘associates’. NSW members may also be unaware that we have long had members in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the ACT.

As a member based organisation we believe we offer a set of values and benefits that can be recognised across Australia, and that appeals particularly to both community-based members and the ‘purpose-before-profit’ small private provider.

“Under the NQF, many quality-driven small private providers have more in common with community based child care providers than they do with the big corporates”. Wendy Lindgren explains.

Many of your concerns in NSW are of equal importance nationally: extending universal access to funding for three year olds; supporting rural and remote educators and those working with disadvantaged families; maintaining BBF and mobile funding; developing advocacy and leadership skills for educators of all ages; improving respect for early and middle years education as a profession, and monitoring the looming threat of oversupply through corporate expansion and the danger that poses to all small providers who put a high value on quality.

Our home is in NSW and your particular issues, such as preschool funding and the implementation of Start Strong, will always be a high priority and managed by experienced staff and skilled negotiation with the state government.

However, we are already one of the largest and broadest-based member organisations in this state with around 2000 individual and organisational memberships: to be sustainable we must expand our reach and impact.
So we are now publicly embracing our national presence and actively seeking to unite like-minded educators and providers across Australia for the greater benefit of children.

“When organisations like this one make major changes it inspires those who work in the early childhood sector to also be brave, to think outside the box, to challenge themselves as leaders.”

Our newest board director, Ariane Simon

Introducing CELA

A first step is launching our new trademark, Community Early Learning Australia (CELA—pronounced “seela”). This does not change our legal name, but we will be asking you about that soon.
The vision for Community Early Learning Australia is built on the 40-year tradition of Community Child Care Co-operative and we are prepared to lead a united sector based on shared values.

We are revising member benefits and fees, introducing new management products for your needs, updating governance and legal status, and providing more modern and accessible communication.
In April we launched a new blog, Amplify, to an Australia-wide audience and thousands of educators, trainers, administrators and policy-makers are responding enthusiastically each week. On the 13th June we said goodbye to an outdated website and connected the new one to a modern member database that will radically improve the way your information is managed.
By the end of August we will have held meetings with every education policy department in Australia, conducted a series of networking meetings with our members and be inviting you through a postal ballot to consider a new constitution and official change of name.
The constitution will more clearly describe the improved member offer for private providers than our current ‘associate’ category. Not-for-profit members will retain a control of voting and the Board, but we will give a fairer member offer to private sector members than in the past, provided they sign up to our shared values and purpose-before-profit statement.
The history of Australia’s early childhood sector is one of division rather than unity, but in recent political campaigns the powerful lobbyists at Goodstart Early Learning and Early Childhood Australia have led groups of both NFP and for-profit providers during issues with shared benefit to children.

With CELA, we are building on the newer spirit of cooperation and aiming to create the most influential organisation the sector has seen.

As Wendy says, “There’s a growing gap in interests between the biggest and the smallest early childhood service providers across Australia – there are people waiting for us to represent them at a national level.”

“We are the organisation best suited to drive this cooperation as we are accustomed to representing a range of organisations and individuals across the spectrum of early and middle education and care.

“Being values-driven ourselves, we recognise it in others.”

We have not taken these steps lightly or without research. Our confidence in our direction is partly because you have been guiding us through your feedback at workshops, in surveys, and in direct responses to questions we have posed in Shortside or social media.
We know you are asking for more face-to-face regional professional development sessions, more webinars, more networking and peer support opportunities, and even more practical resources. These, too, are part of the vision under CELA. A broader member base and a more engaging professional development agenda will work hand-in-hand to support you.

“Under the NQF, quality-driven small private providers have more in common with smaller community based child care providers than they do with the big corporates.”

Board Chairperson, Wendy Lindgren

Next steps

Financial imperatives have required urgency to act swiftly regarding some of the necessary changes, for example, launching the new trademark, branding, website, reviewing all of our existing polices, and developing new products and services. Coinciding with this, but at a (legally driven) slower pace, we are undertaking a thorough constitutional review. A key component of the constitutional review will be seeking your support through a postal ballot to transition to a new business identity and structure.
One of our longest serving Board members, Maria Pender (who was director of community-based Clovelly Child Care Centre for over 25 years) contributed to this article too, speaking to us about the need for all organisations to change, in step with new policy and funding directions.
“As you look back over the years, funding changes every time you get a new government; they keep taking money away from early childhood,” Maria said.
Equally important for Maria is that our organisation remains relevant and capable of helping members strive through changing times.
“As funding changes and priorities change at the government level, the organisation needs to be able to make those changes happen in the field, and can guide people who work in services to know what’s happening,” she said.
“It’s good to open a new chapter; we’re on the right track.
“Community Child Care works very hard to meet the needs of all the people out in the field. And early childhood, to me, helps families equip their children with everything they need as they move to school.”

Ariane Simon, our newest Board member and director of St Stephen’s Preschool, says change is not only necessary, it inspires.
“When organisations like this one make major changes, it shows courage and leadership,” Ariane said.
“It inspires those who work in the early childhood sector to also be brave, to think outside the box, to challenge themselves as leaders.
“CELA is positioning itself to be a brave organisation, underpinned by history while forging a new future.”

Why CELA?

You no longer call your work child care, and nor should we. This is more than just a new name and logo. It’s about effectively communicating who we are, what we do and driving the future of the sector.
Our new trademark carries forward CCCC’s 40-year history, while making clear that we are prepared to lead a united sector based on shared values. Community Early Learning Australia is built on the 40-year tradition of Community Child Care Co-operative—a tradition of supporting evidence-based research, grassroots consultation, common sense action and, above all, championing our belief that all children deserve quality early education and care.
Community Early Learning Australia reflects the sector’s priority to deliver quality early education and care. The trademark demonstrates the respect we have for educators and the work they do, and our commitment to leading change in the sector.
Finally, our trademark reflects the organisations expanded scope and national focus. While based in NSW we have had members in other states and territories for many years. They share our community values and advocacy commitment and we have much to gain through closer collaboration and engagement. The business changes we are making will enable us to form closer links and better leverage these relationships in the interests of achieving our mission to amplify the value of quality early education for all children.

Modern, accessible communications

Moving forward you can expect to see more modern and accessible communication, training, consulting and advocacy from us.
Communication with you will be via our new trademark CELA.
In advance of the constitution restructure, CELA will spearhead a range of other exciting initiatives to ensure we better meet your needs. Some have already rolled out and some are yet to come, including:

  • A new website: with fresh content and a raft of resources to make your lives easier, including new publications to support your financial management and marketing.
  • Recently launched blog Amplify! providing accurate, up-to-the-minute news and information already regularly reaching 20,000 viewers across Australia.
  • The Champions network created to better engage the grassroots in our advocacy.
  • A new online human resources platform, EarlyEdHR, developed on request from our members for additional support and designed specifically for staff management in early and middle education and care services.

“The change that I am really excited about is the soon to be launched new HR platform,” Ariane told us.
“It will be an enormous help to centre managers, especially in standalone services that manage all HR matters from contracts, letters of employment, entitlements and so on.
“There is so much scope with this new platform, I’m excited to start using it myself as a preschool director.”

Moving ahead

Just as CCCC NSW has done since the mid-1970s, CELA will continue to amplify quality education and care. Support for our members, quality education and care for children, and sector advocacy remains at the heart of everything we do. We will continue to inform families, influence policy-makers, and inspire educators.
We look forward to the next chapter in the Community Child Care Co-operative story with excitement. Driven by our new vision, we bring you an organisation better able to meet its members’ needs, champion the voice of the sector, and lead the change to ensure all children have access to quality early education and care.
Remember, you are part of this change, just as you continue to be part of our tradition. Above all, we look forward to working with you through these changing times, towards a more professional and sustainable future, delivering Australian children the very best early education and care.

Diane Lawson

Diane has over 25 years’ experience as an executive in the non-profit, health and social care sectors in Australia, England and the Middle East. With qualifications at degree and masters level in nursing, women’s studies and human resource development, Diane has lead on the development of an extensive range of highly credible evidence based policies, products and services to build workforce capacity.

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3 thoughts on “Welcome to Community Early Learning Australia

  1. Thankyou for the summary of your history and clear reasons for the change. I applaud your determination, courage and creativity to remain a vital part of the early childhood community.

    1. Thank you Julie for taking the time to provide feedback. We are lucky to have almost 40 years of tradition to draw upon as we position ourselves for the future. I sincerely hope all of our members see the benefits of the vision for our organisation and the sector and continue their membership journey with us.
      All the Best Diane

  2. We all see the benefits of exploring the wider community, there is so much for everyone to learn when we come close to each other and by that I mean children, educators and others, but with sadness I can say that often the idea of going out of the centre and exploring the environment, is avoided by educators , directors and when ever children are taken out that would be done for specific reasons such as the big boss said or to fill in some NQS requirement

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