Page 1813 - Week 06 - Thursday, 14 May 2015

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see many families disadvantaged, quite clearly. Stay-at-home parents in particular will not be eligible for any subsidised care under the current system unless their family income is less than $65,000 a year.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Dr Bourke.

DR BOURKE: Minister, why is it important that families have access to high quality and affordable child care?

MS BURCH: The ACT government have, for a long time, been working to ensure that all families have access to affordable and high quality education and care. In fact, we have been working on this since 2001, and we know how important it is to have early education and care that is high quality, accessible, affordable and meets the needs of working families.

Historically, the focus on education has been on children over the age of three. Yet we know that the first three years of life are particularly influential on a child’s development. While physical care of infants is important, so too are the interactions and experiences that lay the foundations for all aspects of their learning and development.

That is why we signed up to the national quality framework that has at its core the recognition that children are learners from birth. It is not about teaching children their letters and numbers while they are still in nappies; it is about play-based programs that support children to develop a strong sense of identity and become confident, successful learners. It is about recognising the incredible capacity of young children to actively participate in learning.

The ACT has a high number of children in early education and care settings and we owe it to these children, their families and the community as a whole to provide them with the opportunities to develop this foundation. This is why the ACT government has been such a strong supporter of the national quality framework. It is about ensuring the highest quality care for our children. There should be no stronger aim than to make sure that the care provided to our children is of a high quality. That is why we support the national quality framework and will continue to support our early education and care sector in the ACT.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Porter.

MS PORTER: Minister, how is the ACT government supporting the growth of childcare places in the ACT?

MS BURCH: I thank Ms Porter for her question. Since 2001 there has been 95 per cent growth in the number of long day care places, including an anticipated 1,200 places in the 12 months from October last year. Additional places continue to become available as a result of the $13.3 million put aside for infrastructure over the last four budgets. Extensions and upgrades to 10 education and care centres have been completed, with a further three under construction and one out to market for tender. Other facilities have also been refurbished to bring them up to today’s standards. This investment will create around 235 extra places for children under preschool age.

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