Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Family Day Care

I relish the opportunity to speak this afternoon on this matter of public important. I am honoured to follow the speakers from this side who have spoken before me, because on this side of the chamber, as you can hear today in this debate, there is a passion fore child care—a passion that is sorely lacking on the other side of this chamber. It is to do with the way Labor develops policy—what drives us and motivates us when we develop and implement policy.

I want to talk today a little bit about a link back to the past. We heard in question time a lot of links back to the past—our past, Labor's past, celebration of Labor's achievements—and we have done a lot of that this week. Gough Whitlam's government changed the paradigm of tertiary education. Under the Whitlam government, we remember, free university education was introduced. It was introduced to shift people's thinking, to radically change the way people thought about tertiary education. It opened up that education system. It made it affordable. It created aspiration. It created access. It changed Australian in doing to. It meant an increased number of women. It increased participation rates of women. It increased participation rates of, critically, mature-age students who were women, and that changed children's lives.

Gough Whitlam's government changed lives and, like that, what the previous Labor government did in the childcare space was aiming to do a similar thing, to change that paradigm, to change child care from the cheap, cheerful model that those opposite would like us to have to one that is educative, where children get care and learning. It was huge. And what do we have today? We have an MPI where all they are talking about over there is money and all we are talking about over here is quality.

We introduced the quality framework and understand on this side of the chamber—and have done forever—that to change a paradigm you might need to kick in with some funding. We have lots of negatives from the other side of the House about budget blow-outs. You cannot change a paradigm without increasing participation in a program. The budget blow-out, as they call it, reflects increased participation from women in the workforce, something we celebrate on this side of the chamber.

We changed the way the service operated. Recently in my electorate I went to visit family day care centres like all of us have over here. We have 33 providers in Lalor, all of which have been told that they may be at risk of losing their funding. That is 33 providers across an enormous number of educators. When I went to visit a few of them, what struck me was how the sector had shifted. I was someone who used family day care when my children were young. I saw a marked difference. I met people who were running family day care in their homes who were incredibly proud of the work they had done in quality frameworks, who were incredibly proud of their qualifications, who talked as educators about the children they were looking after, who were able to take me to a visual that showed me what those children had been learning in the last three months and to plans for what they were going to put in place for each child into the future. That is what you call shifting a paradigm. That is not a cheap and cheerful model; that is the model we need for modern Australia.

I think one of the important things we have to note in this MPI is, of course, money. We have to talk about money because we have to talk about the fact that Labor built a changed expectation. Labor built aspiration. Labor provided money to family day care that allowed in my electorate shift workers like those who work in the prison system to have their children in family day care. I heard from families whose wives had been employed because they found this model locally. Family day care operators were working specifically with shift working families.

But we have had the cuts. We are going to pull this back because Labor builds and those opposite tear it down. The cuts they are introducing to child care will tear down this sector. We hear a lot about the unionisation of the workforce as if somehow that is a negative. The unionisation of the childcare workforce is about women—mostly—in the workforce collectively bargaining for a better deal for themselves and for the children they care for.

 

 


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