Thursday, 23 June 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Early childhood education


Early childhood education

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (12:28): My question is also directed to the Minister for Early Childhood on the issue that she has just raised in her ministers statement. Minister, non-government early childhood services that are partially funded currently face the risk of an expanded funding gap under the government’s proposed Best Start, Best Life program. Given the government has committed to full funding of the program—

Members interjecting.

Ms CROZIER: President?


Ms CROZIER: Thank you, President. Given the government has committed to full funding of the program in 2023, how much additional financial support will be provided to the community-based and not-for-profit sectors to ensure that the promise of full funding of kindergarten for every Victorian child is met?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:29): I thank Ms Crozier for her question. I do not accept the premise of the question, where she presents that this is not going to be to the benefit of those particular community services. I am proud that through that $9 billion investment we will be able to make kindergarten more affordable for families right across the state, regardless of what setting they choose to send their children to a kinder program in. We will spend $3 billion over the next decade to make three- and four-year-old kinder free, and that will commence from 2023 onwards. It will save families between $2000 and $2500 per child each year, and that is absolutely critical particularly at the moment when families have real cost-of-living pressures on them. This will take away the uncertainty and ensure that our participation rates in kindergarten not only remain strong but actually build from where they are now. It is a really powerful way to give children the best start in life—to provide free kindergarten for both three- and four-year-olds.

I just want to remind Ms Crozier that when we introduced free kinder in 2021 as part of our COVID recovery measures we had 98.9 per cent of community-based sessional kindergartens participate in the free kinder program and 98 per cent of long day care providers take up the offer, so the suggestion that somehow this is not something that will be strongly embraced by the early childhood education and care sector, particularly the sessional kindergartens in the community-based services, I reject. I know that the sector are very keen for more information about next year’s free kinder program, and that is why the department will work incredibly closely with the sector as we develop the funding arrangements for next year. That has been absolutely the way in which we have engaged the sector on every reform that we have brought forward, and we will do so again in relation to free kinder next year.

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (12:31): I note the minister was unable to provide the specifics on the question I asked about how much additional financial support will be provided to this sector, so I will ask the minister to see if she can answer this question for me on behalf of the sector. Minister, the government’s early childhood announcement will require additional staff in the not-for-profit and community sectors, as many as 18 000 staff by 2032, so I ask: how much money has been allocated to fund the education and training of these early childhood educators, and what funding will be made available to the community and not-for-profit sectors?

Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (12:32): It is interesting to be asked about not supporting the sector in a circumstance where we have just made the biggest investment in early childhood education in our state’s history. Our three-year-old kindergarten reforms—

Members interjecting.

Mr Gepp: On a point of order, President, the opposition had a sook earlier, when they were asking their question, about interjections. The minister has been on her feet for 25 seconds, and they have not shut up.

The PRESIDENT: We have to be careful with how we raise our points of order. While I do not agree with most of it, I agree that interjections are not acceptable.

Ms STITT: We will continue to work closely with the sector on the workforce strategy that we have already released for the early childhood education and care sector, which we developed in concert with the sector because that is the way that we do things. There are 6000 jobs that will be created just as a result of the three-year-old kindergarten reforms. Early development shows that at least another 5000 teachers and educators will be required on top of that 6000 as we double the number of four-year-old kinder hours, and we will ensure that the incentives are in place to deliver on that commitment.