2 September, 2020: Australian children’s charity UNICEF Australia is proud to join educators, researchers, business leaders, unions, health professionals, parents, community organisations, and economists from across Australia calling for a universally accessible early education system as part of the Thrive By Five campaign, an initiative of the Minderoo Foundation.
“We are proud to join the Thrive by Five Campaign spearheaded by Nicola Forrest and UNICEF Australia ambassador for Early Childhood, Professor Fiona Stanley. This initiative is good for children and families and will help boost workforce participation and drive Australia’s economic recovery,” said Nicole Breeze, Director of Australian Programs, UNICEF Australia.
We know that education in the early years can enhance brain development, help parents work and engage in society and help reduce the costs of mediating future problems in health, education, mental health, justice and employment.
Investment in brain development through play-based learning for children aged zero to five are vital to lifelong intellectual and social development. Ninety per cent of a child’s brain is fully developed by the age of five.
Sadly, many children who start school are developmentally vulnerable and will never catch up to their peers – if they start behind, they stay behind. This is worsened by the fact that 18 per cent of our childcare centres do not currently meet the existing early learning quality standards.
A universally accessible, high-quality early learning system will allow an extra 380,000 parents to get back into the workforce and remove the financial barriers to women taking on full-time work. This investment will ultimately drive economic growth through participation, productivity, and population (removing economic disincentives to grow families).
Australia’s investment in early learning is below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average, and families are paying too much of the cost, we need public investment to make early education more affordable for all children.
Earlier this year UNICEF Australia commended the Federal Government’s creation of temporary free universal childcare in an effort to directly support families through the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a highly effective emergency response measure and, it’s now time to further recognise the untapped opportunities that increasing access to affordable, accessible early learning provides to children and families and expanding their working capacity while also stimulating the economy.