Thursday, 23 June 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Early childhood education


Early childhood education

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (12:19): My question is for the Minister for Early Childhood. I refer to the government’s decision, supported by the opposition, to expand early childhood education for all Victorian children. When the Premier said he would build and operate early childhood centres across the state, many in the not-for-profit community and municipal sectors were cautiously concerned. In this context will the minister guarantee that the not-for-profit, faith-based, philosophical and municipal sector providers will remain the cornerstone of the delivery of early childhood education in Victoria and that the government will not override these longstanding and trusted providers by building and operating early childhood centres in competition with or opposition to them?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:20): I thank Mr Davis for his question and welcome the opposition’s support of our ambitious reform agenda in early childhood to the tune of $9 billion. That is a shot in the arm for the early childhood education and care sector. It is a massive signal to that sector that we are going to continue to invest, that we are going to continue to provide the infrastructure that our community needs and that we are going to actually double the number of hours of four-year-old kindergarten. So any suggestion by those opposite that that somehow means that there is any part of this sector that is not going to thrive in this kind of environment where the government is backing them in is a nonsense.

What I can say, Mr Davis, is that, just like the way that we rolled out our three-year-old reforms, we will work really closely with the sector. A feature of the success of the rollout of three-year-old kinder is our partnership with every single part of the early childhood sector. And I know Dr Bach agrees with me on this, because—

A member: You reckon he does?

Ms STITT: He does; he is nodding. He is nodding because he knows that it does not matter whether you are a long day care service or whether you are a parent committee run kindergarten service. It does not matter whether you are in rural or regional Victoria or in metropolitan Melbourne in a growth corridor. Those services know that we are going to back them in and we are going to work really closely with them as we not only roll out double the number of hours guaranteed for every four-year-old child and continue to deliver our three-year-old kindergarten and build those hours up between now and 2029 to 15 hours per week for three-year-olds, but we are also going to make sure that in those parts of the state where the market is just not there and there is additional demand we will work very carefully and do the detailed planning work of where these 50 additional childcare services need to be located. It will not be at the expense of anyone—most definitely not at the expense of anyone in the community. This is all about working closely with the sector, backing in families through free kinder and providing our children in Victoria with absolutely the best start in life.

Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (12:22): My supplementary question is a simple one: how much capital will be allocated to upgrade not-for-profit, faith-based, philosophical and municipality-run childhood centres to achieve the government’s objectives?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:23): I thank Mr Davis for his supplementary question. Perhaps he can listen in when I do my ministers statement in a moment about the infrastructure program of this government in early childhood. But what I can say is that we have a range of different streams already available in terms of upgrades for facilities, and that is something that the early childhood education and care sector have fully participated in, regardless of what setting they are in. The $9 billion commitment of our government will also include the capacity to upgrade and expand our kindergartens, because we know that with doubling the hours for four-year-olds and increasing the hours for three-year-olds of course we will need to look carefully at the capacity of services right across the state, and that will form part of the work that we will do in close consultation with the sector, the Victorian School Building Authority and the department.