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NSW election highlights national needs

2019 elections
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On 23 March, 2019, NSW will vote for its next state government. The early childhood education sector is well prepared and more united than ever on four essential outcomes for the sector. In the coming weeks, Amplify will share analysis and explanations of the four agreed areas of need for NSW, the sector’s reasonable requests for action, and how they relate to all Australian educators and services.

In addition, CELA will add a fifth area, reflecting its long-lived support for rural and regional educators in NSW and across Australia.Â

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Michael Daley

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Michael Daley

in many ways NSW will play out the policy questions affecting every single service in Australia ahead of the Federal election expected some time this year.

Background

Let’s begin by remembering the 1:3 rule of Australian political impact. That is, for every three children and educators in Australia, one is located in NSW. As the most populous jurisdiction in Australia, political changes in NSW affect more people than in any other election and the state has the opportunity to lead and inspire reforms for the whole country.  The nature of our Commonwealth and state political scene, however, means NSW can be viewed as a tall poppy by smaller states – especially if they fear the cost of changes that big states seek to make.

There are good outcomes to being a large and influential state, like the higher educator:child ratios that NSW refused to yield to allow national consistency in the NQF, which dragged some other states like South Australia up to a higher ratio than could have been achieved by local influence alone. Then there are poor outcomes, like the extra time it took for NSW to meet its Universal Access requirements for one year of preschool for every child while smaller states mostly responded faster and gained more benefits for more children.

NSW has traditionally lagged far behind other jurisdictions in publicly funded preschool places, yet is a co-funder of the Lifting Our Game report that sets all states and territories against the current Commonwealth Government’s resistance to expanding universal access to two years of preschool. It is a leader in allocating a Cabinet portfolio to a junior Minister for early childhood education, but a follower in building the kind of school transition partnerships seen in some other jurisdictions.

This background matters to every reader ahead of our NSW election coverage because in many ways NSW will play out the policy questions affecting every single service in Australia ahead of the Federal election expected some time this year.

NSW stakeholders

For about two years, the major NSW peak bodies, unions and providers have strived to find their common ground rather than focusing solely on differences. The differences still exist between unions and employers, private providers and community bodies, but some fundamental similarities have been found, too.

What matters most is that while past governments have – if they chose – been able to ignore the divided opinions and disparate demands of the sector, the current NSW government and opposition are facing a largely united front representing the majority of the early years sector from every angle. This combined stakeholder group makes it far more difficult for any political or administrative representative to plead away from reasonable requests for action. Not impossible, of course, but definitely more difficult.

The letterthumbnail of 190116_Final letter_NSW EC Sector meeting request Gladys Berejiklian (1)

Scroll to the end to read the full letter to the NSW Premier, Minister for Education, Minister for Early Childhood Education and NSW Treasurer and view the signatories. Or you can click on the thumbnail image to the right to download a copy of letter signed by the 25 members of this NSW stakeholder group.

The four reasonable requests for action from the next NSW government are, in summary:

  1. All NSW children have access to affordable, high quality early learning for at least two days per week, for the two years before formal schooling, delivered in long day and preschool settings.
  2. NSW children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage are able to fully participate in early learning and receive the support that they need.
  3. Develop, implement and evaluate a strategic vision and action plan to implement a ten year NSW Early Childhood Education Workforce Strategy (2019-2029) that builds a quality, well remunerated and professionally recognised early years workforce.
  4. Continued partnership support for the National Quality Framework.

CELA focus

CELA will bring you a fifth reasonable request for action from NSW to provide clear and ongoing support sustaining the early childhood education sector in rural, regional and remote parts of the state. While backing the whole-sector approach to government on the biggest issues affecting everyone in the sector, CELA CEO Michele Carnegie says the organisation’s heartland remains not-for-profit services and educators working in the state’s 800 community based preschools and other community services should be confident their special concerns were also being presented.

Throughout the campaign, we will be advocating for community based services to ensure they get the support they need to continue providing, across the board, the highest quality education and care in Australia.

Michele Carnegie, CELA CEO

What happens in NSW…

There are other reasons for every reader, not only NSW based, to follow this election and any response from either party to the state sector’s demands. When you work across Australian jurisdictions you quickly see a broad pattern of behaviour in early years and school education.

While there are always exceptions, in general terms:

  • Tasmania and South Australia tend to favour policies and practices set in Victoria
  • the ACT, Northern Territory and Queensland tend to favour NSW policies and practices
  • Western Australia tends to watch what’s happening and make its own decisions based on averaging any changes or conflicts across the other states, and do it a year or more later so it remains uniquely WA.

With Victoria’s landslide-supported ALP government expected to implement some changes close to the requests currently put forward for NSW, the next government in each of these large population states will be influencing policy in every part of the nation.

Dear Premier…

Five pages follow:

 

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