Page 1371 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 9 April 2013

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However, this is not all. On top of the support for the infrastructure of child care, we have invested in the early education workforce. This Labor government has had in place a scholarship program to support those wishing to upgrade their skills to a certificate III level. This program has been highly successful in helping the workforce to gain a foot in the sector and delivering high quality early childhood education.

The government has also made a commitment to provide scholarships to those wishing to undertake degrees in early childhood education. Again, this measure will not only ensure the provision of quality child care but, when combined with the federal government’s commitment, provide some level of job security and career progression for the workforce.

Through all of these initiatives we have faced criticism from those opposite all the way. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say. The ACT government investment has helped the education and care sector grow substantially over the past decade. Since 2001 the number of available places has doubled, with just over 8,300 long day care places now being offered to families in the ACT. The ACT government has an ongoing commitment to raising the quality of early childhood care and education. We do this because we know that there are now more children in care than at any time in history, and their families deserve to be reassured that their children are getting the very best.

The research is absolutely unquestionable about the critical importance of these early years. We now know that 90 per cent of brain development occurs in the first five years of a child’s life. What happens in these early years will not just impact on them now but impact on the social outcomes, the developmental outcomes and, of course, the educational outcomes which are attained by this individual throughout their whole life.

The most critical factor in the delivery of quality early childhood education and care is the workforce. They are early childhood professionals and they must be recognised and valued as such. I would like to thank all those who work in the sector and recognise their commitment towards the kids in our community and to ensuring that they are safe and happy in their care environment.

I would also like to acknowledge those behind the big steps campaign, seeking professional recognition and fair wages for early childhood educators. Their strong advocacy on this issue is to be commended. The announcement by the federal government addresses many of the issues raised by the sector in their big steps campaign. It is an important acknowledgement of early childhood educators and recognises not just their qualifications, but also the emotional investment that they make every day to the development of our children.

MR DOSZPOT (Molonglo) (3.53): I welcome the opportunity to speak to the matter of public importance brought on by Dr Bourke, and I thank him for doing so. Given Dr Bourke’s former position as education minister in the previous government, Dr Bourke would be well placed to know and appreciate the importance of this sector. He would also be well placed to know that this Labor government—and, indeed,

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