Early Childhood Education

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:18): My question is to the minister for early childhood development. Minister, Jan and Gary run an independent child care with kinder centre in the Latrobe Valley. Suffering from a severe staff shortage and, despite going to great lengths, unable to recruit staff, their 30-year respected service is on the brink of closure. Your policy is having adverse negative impacts on regional businesses. Minister, what will you do to stop Gary and Jan having to close their childcare centre?


Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep) (12:19): I thank Ms Bath for her question. I will need to understand whether it is a
sessional kindergarten or a long day care centre, because the funding settings vary slightly, depending on what type of service is being provided. But if there are specific issues about difficulties in recruiting staff in regional and rural areas, I would really urge Ms Bath to provide me with some further details, and we can get some very intensive support around that service in that area through the department, who have obviously been assisting the whole sector in the rollout of three-year-old kindergarten, and that includes assistance with recruitment in hard-to-staff areas. So if that is a particular feature of this issue, then there is support there and I would urge you to provide me with the details. In relation to the Best Start, Best Life reforms, with three-year-old kindergarten we already had $209 million worth of investment in workforce strategies. It is incredibly important to get a really strong pipeline of teachers and educators over the next decade to deliver on our three-year-old rollout, which is continuing, but also to support the significant reforms that we have recently announced around doubling the hours of four-year-old kinder between 2025 and 2032. We will have more to say about additional supports that will be available for attracting and retaining the incredible workforce in the early childhood sector. We could not have delivered these reforms without them. Free kindergarten is also a feature of our reforms, Ms Bath, as you would be aware, and there is also support available from the department to understand the way in which the guidelines operate for particular services. I would urge you to provide me with the details, and I will make sure that the department is in touch with this service forthwith.
This is a huge shot in the arm for early childhood education and care in our state. This is the single largest reform in our country to early childhood education, and this will set children up for life in
Victoria. We are already seeing in some regional and rural areas the benefit where three-year-old has been offered for a couple of years now—the feedback from the sector, from professionals, about how amazing it is and the impact it is having on kids that then go into four-year-old. They are not just hitting their milestones; they are smashing them. This is all about giving children the very best start in life so that their education journey is a rich one.

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:22): I thank the minister for her response. Minister, Gary and Jan’s centre prioritises Department of Families, Fairness and Housing vulnerable, out-of-home care
and child protection children. At any one time they have 12 of those children in their care. If Jan and Gary are forced to close, where will these children go?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep) (12:20): Ms Bath, you are presenting a hypothetical situation to me. I know that there is a high degree of support available for our early childhood education and care services. You have not even been able to identify what type of service is being operated at this particular centre. I will point out that for children that are known to child protection or who are experiencing vulnerability there are additional supports available. They have been receiving free kindergarten for a number of years in our state. If the issue is about the viability of that service, my department deals with these issues regularly, particularly in rural and regional areas, and I would urge you to provide me with those details so we can support that service.