Page 1161 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 28 March 2017

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Before coming into this Assembly, I was a full-time mother of five children. Because we wanted to recreate for my children the close bond and care that I had enjoyed with my grandparents during my early years, my husband and I made a commitment for me to stay at home whilst he finished his studies. We lived on a very small fortnightly income with three children under the age of three during that time. In seven years of full-time university study, we received a modest single income for our family, which had by then increased to five children.

It was difficult but doable, and I will forever cherish the opportunity that I had to be at home with my five kids and serve as both their nurturer and their teacher. I have been especially satisfied watching them grow up and perform well academically. For example, our eldest—and I am lucky to know this, since, like many boys his age, he rarely tells us anything—is currently in a program at Gungahlin College, where he is earning university credit in megatronics from the ANU, and our eldest daughter is currently a straight-A student at Canberra high.

I hope you will excuse the personal narrative, Madam Assistant Speaker, but my experience as a mother has left me with the great desire that all children in the ACT and beyond reach their full potential. Consequently, we should do all that we can to strengthen families and to provide for children who are at risk of poor developmental and educational outcomes. As a result, as adults, we have an awesome responsibility to guide, nurture and teach the younger generations.

MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Women and Minister for Sport and Recreation) (3.54): I welcome the opportunity to discuss the importance of early childhood education in the ACT. Providing all of our children with the best start in life is important to me, through my own experiences, as it should be for all members, because every child deserves an equal chance at a great education and the life chances which flow from it.

The research is clear: evidence from around the world, and in Australia, clearly shows that quality early childhood education and care sets children up to learn and provides lifelong benefits. For example, in 2012 Australian children with a year of pre-primary education achieved the equivalent of about six months more learning than children who did not attend preschool, as measured in the program for international student assessment. A similar impact can be seen in other measures.

The impact of quality early childhood education and care extends beyond just academic performance, providing children with the ability to learn, engage in learning, self-regulate, and manage their emotions and behaviour. Children who participate experience these benefits irrespective of their family, social or economic context. But most pronounced is the impact of early childhood education and care on disadvantaged children, where it can play a key role in narrowing the gap even before these children enter school.

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