The future of early learning is on the national agenda. This year, the new Government signalled a strong commitment to ECEC policy, with record investments at a federal level and in some states and territories. These strategies, as well as the enquiries planned for 2023,aimto deliver better outcomes for children and families across Australia.

CELA CEO Michele Carnegie is a member of the Front Project's Apiary Fellowship, which is developing a vision for the future of early education.The Apiary Fellowship are calling for input from children across Australia: here’s how you can get involved." />

By CELA on 8 Dec, 2022

On Friday October 28, the Front Project’s visioning summit brought together a diverse range of influential people in the early education and care space, including CELA CEO Michele Carnegie, to launch a deeper national conversation about the future of early learning. 

The Summit was attended by 100 participants from government, early childhood settings, playgroups, research, First Nations and cultural settings, health, disability, early intervention and community. Those who joined the day did so in the spirit of collaboration and with a vision to enable a collective contribution from the system for a future in which young children and their families can thrive. 

“As an Apiary Fellow, I was excited to see the vast range of valuable ideas that flowed from the contributors. These ideas will be used to transform the early learning space so that every child, family and community can thrive,” says Michele.  

The Apiary’s future visioning work started in 2019 when Apiary Fellows recognised an opportunity to take action and bring together the diverse perspectives of those working with and for children. The Apiary has been working closely with global experts, including Joe Waters, the CEO of Capita, based in the United States. Capita's work focuses on creating a future vision for children that identifies what it takes for every child to flourish now and into the future. 

Drawing on the learning from Capita, the Apiary has pursued future visioning as an initiative that can unite a complex sector beyond the challenges of today and collectively look to transform the early learning system around the timeless needs of children, as the world around them changes. - The Front Project 

The Early Learning Visioning Summit was designed for participants to explore a range of innovative and interactive methods to help uncover unique insights for the longer-term future of the early learning system. Three distinct methods were used throughout the Summit to allow for creative and divergent thinking and to encourage participants to think about innovative solutions for the future. According to The Front Project, this provided an environment in which participants were able to generate a rich bank of insights about desired futures for the early learning system. 

Method 1: Postcards to the future 

Each participant was provided with a set of 5 photos. They were asked to choose the photo that resonated with them the most and answers the question; What is your vision for the early learning system?  

81 postcards to the future were submitted and analysis saw clear themes emerge on what a future early system looks like:  

  1. Children’s individual needs are at the core of the system design, and their voices are an integral part of decision-making for the future.  
  2. Community responsive-localised settings developed within communities where children and families can access early learning and education, health, social services, food/nutrition and nature/environment.  
  3. Multigenerational approaches where strong partnerships exist across generations, supporting the child to thrive. 
  4. Inclusive and diverse settings where individuality and uniqueness are embraced.  
  5. First Nations values, knowledge and culture are embedded in practice and deeply valued.  

Method 2: Landscapes of the future 

Thirteen groups created a landscape using a range of loose parts to create a desired future. These landscapes showed the following emerging themes:  

  1. Community early learning settings with multiple pathways and entry points.  
  2. Children should shape the future and be at the centre of all decisions.  
  3. First Nations pedagogy is central to all decision-making.  
  4. Sustainability and the environment are integral in the creation of community spaces.  

Method 3: Transformative futures  

13 groups developed a transformative scenario which showed the following emerging themes for the future of early learning:  

  1. Community collaboration, where services are built together and facilitated by co-located, co-designed early learning settings to create a collective society.  
  2. Children are at the centre, their contributions are heard and valued, and their input into design and decisions is embedded in how we shape the future.  
  3. Inclusive and diverse environments are created, and everyone is respected.  
  4. The early learning system values the workforce through high pay rates and conditions, and career pathways exist. 
  5.  Lifelong funding models are established and maintained throughout the early learning system.  

(Methods and summaries provided via The Front Project)

The visioning summit was just the beginning—here's how you can help put children’s views at the centre 

"The Front Project and the Apiary Fellowship place children at the centre of their work and understand the importance of including the voices of children and their families in order to reflect the evolving environments in which they live," Says CELA CEO Michele Carnegie. "Listening to children's voices, opinions and views on decisions that directly impact them is key to a flourishing future for our sector." 

There will be an opportunity to connect to this project via conversations in your own early learning settings across Australia. Children and families can contribute their lived experience and share their views using the Postcards to the Future and Landscape of the Future activities.  

According to The Front Project, the two activities have been adapted to make them meaningful to children while allowing for comparisons to be drawn across adult contributions so that their voices can be included and have equal weight in shaping collaborative visions. The activities have also been designed to allow children to participate in the environments and settings where they are already engaging in services that are familiar and known to them, ensuring that honest and authentic insights are captured. Early learning settings will be provided with guidance and support to implement two activities with children and/or families and other professionals and capture the outcomes.  

Print materials are available, and a series of facilitator learning sessions will be implemented via Zoom. These outcomes will then feed into the overall visioning process, bringing together the voices of children, families, communities and diverse stakeholders in the early learning system across Australia.  

As part of ensuring there is diversity in the voices represented in the visioning process, the Front Project and the Apiary are actively engaging and seeking people and communities who work with or interact with children and families and other professionals in metro and rural settings, such as ECEC services, playgroups, libraries, First Nations and cultural settings, health, mental health, disability, early intervention, libraries, social groups, sporting clubs, arts and play groups. 

How to get involved:



About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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