Last Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s new ministry. Dr Anne Aly was appointed Minister for Early Childhood Education and Youth.
"I think it's a huge portfolio to be entrusted with and I'm really pleased about that," Dr Aly said, during the swearing in ceremony, held at Government House last Wednesday. Later that day she made the following comment on social media: "It is an honour to be appointed as Minister for Early Childhood Education and for Youth in the Albanese Labor Government. I am excited to serve in this portoflio. Can't wiait to get to work!"
Originally from Egypt, Dr Aly moved with her family to the Sydney suburb of Chipping Norton when she was two. Prior to entering public life, she was a professor, lecturer, and academic specialising in counterterrorism, for which she is considered a global authority. Dr Aly founded People Against Violent Extremism (PaVE) to address extremism in Australia. She's also a domestic violence survivor.
In 2021, Dr Aly was awarded the McKinnon Prize for Emerging Political Leader of the Year in recognition of her parliamentary work against both right-wing extremism and family and domestic violence.
Having been a single mother to two boys during her twenties, she understands the importance of having the support of high-quality education and care to help juggle the responsibilities of having children with building a career to put meals on the table.
In a speech delivered after the last budget, where then Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested that a solution to cost-of-living pressures and high rent was that people should buy a house, Dr Aly responded: "The cost-of-living pressures aren't something that goes away with a temporary sugar hit. They're actually a lot more substantive than that. And writ large in the budget delivered on Tuesday is that it is a budget designed to get a failing, flailing government through an election but not to get Australians through increased costs of living, stagnant real wages, mortgage stress, high costs of child care and, really, this faded—not fading but faded—dream of homeownership for many of our young people.”2
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised that helping families with the rising costs of living will be the new Government’s first priority.
CELA welcomes Dr Anne Aly as the new Minister for Early Childhood Education and Youth," says Michele Carnegie, CELA CEO. "We look forward to building a productive relationship that will deliver the changes needed to build and support our workforce and ensure all children can access high quality education and care, no matter where they live or how much their family earns.
CELA welcomes Jason Clare, Minister for Education
Early Childhood is part of the larger Education portfolio, which will be led by Jason Clare, as Minister for Education.
Mr Clare, who grew up in Sydney’s Western Suburbs and was the first in his family to go to university, stated that the education portfolio is his ‘dream’ portfolio. An experienced politician, he was first elected to Parliament in 2007.
"Our education system is the most powerful cause for good in this country,” says Mr Clare. “Run well, it can ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach their potential. It is the great equaliser in an unequal world. If we are serious about equal opportunity for men and women, for rich and poor, for Indigenous and multicultural Australia, then let it begin with the youngest Australians."3
Our new Prime Minister calls for the doors of opportunity to be open to all
In his election victory speech, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declared: "I want every parent to be able to tell their child that no matter where you live or where you come from, in Australia, the doors of opportunity are open to us all."4
It is an inspiring vision to work towards, but we have a long way to go. Recent analysis of the Australian Early Development Census by The Front Project shows that where you live and how much you make are important factors determining a child's life chances.5
Yet we know that high-quality early education and care can provide a protective role against vulnerability. Overseas research, such as the decades-long Perry Preschool study, shows that children experiencing disadvantage who attend high-quality early learning programs benefit significantly over their lifetime, yielding positive outcomes for individuals, the wider community, and the economy.6
Structural factors require acton from government at the state and federal levels if we are to progress toward the vision articulated by the new Prime Minister.
The first of these is access to early education and care. About 35% of the Australian population lives in what researchers have referred to as a childcare desert, where there are more than three children per childcare place.7 These ‘deserts’ are concentrated in remote, rural, regional and socio-economically disadvantaged areas.8
Affordability is an important factor, too – and one that the Labor Government has promised to address by increasing the childcare subsidy to 90% for all families and engaging the Productivity Commission to investigate universal access.
Bringing in such measures would encourage more families to access early education and care, but two important details will need to be managed to implement it successfully:
Adequate early childhood education and care services, located where they are needed
A larger workforce than is currently available of qualified educators and teachers
The newly appointed Ministers for Early Childhood Education (Dr Aly) and Education (Mr Clare) need to be up to the challenge.
What CELA will be advocating for over the coming months, and how you can make your voice heard
With a government strong on rhetoric about the transformative power of education for good and for equity, CELA is looking forward to assisting the new Government in bringing the vision to life.
As with any bold policy, the devil will be in the detail – how to ensure education and care services exist where they will have the most impact; how to ensure services are adequately funded; how to ensure there is a qualified and stable workforce to meet demand, and most importantly, that quality remains the focus. Children’s well-being and learning must be paramount.
We have already introduced our joint 6 Point Plan for Education and Care to the new Ministers. Over coming weeks and months, we will provide further data and detail to the Ministers’ attention.
We will be advocating for:
Two days a week of funded early education and care for all children from birth to school
A commitment to the inclusion of all children
Mandatory National Quality Standard assessments and ratings at least every three years
The creation of a national industrial instrument for the education and care sector to provide educators with fairer levels of pay
Fast-tracking and funding the national Children’s Education & Care Workforce Strategy
Properly funded infrastructure and sector support, including strategic investment in community-managed not for profit services
As always, we appreciate hearing the stories and experiences of our members, which support the advocacy we conduct on your behalf.
With job vacancies in early childhood education and care at a record high, we would love to hear from you about how your service is going in relation to staffing. Perhaps your service has access to a stable team, and there hasn’t been much illness driving absences. Or perhaps you’re wondering whether you’ll have to ask families to consider reducing their days due to staff shortages.
In either case, we’d really appreciate it if you could spend 5 minutes completing this short survey to inform our ongoing advocacy around workforce. Again, we thank you in advance for your input and engagement!
Take our short workforce survey
1 Jenna Clarke and Geordie Gray. 'Our first Muslim woman MP Anne Aly is a vibe', The Australian. June 1, 2022.
2 Dr Anne Aly. Budget response, Parliament of Australia. 31 March.
3 Jason Clare, ALP.org.au.
4 “Read incoming prime minister Anthony Albanese's full speech after Labor wins federal election” ABC News. 22 May 2022.
5. 'Supporting all children to thrive: The importance of equity in early
childhood education', The Front Project (2022). Page. 5.
6. 10 Ibid. Page 12.
7 Hurley, P., Matthews, H., & Pennicuik, S. (2022). 'Deserts and oases: How accessible is childcare?' Mitchell Institute, Victoria University.
8 Ibid. Page 13.