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Response to the Early Years Stategy

Royal Far West responds to the Early Years Strategy questions in this submission, including recommendations and explanations that go to our mission – to strengthen the health and wellbeing of children living in rural and remote communities across Australia.

There is currently no overarching Commonwealth strategy to support the early years of child development in Australia.   The Australian Government is developing an Early Years Strategy to shape its vision for the future of Australia’s children and their families.

Royal Far West welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Early Years Strategy Discussion Paper’s questions in this submission, which included some recommendations and explanations that go to our mission – to strengthen the health and wellbeing of children living in rural and remote communities across Australia.

 

RFW believes workforce shortages and the severe lack of childcare places are the key issues facing the early learning sector in many rural and remote locations of Australia. Many country towns do not have enough childcare facilities or pre-school places for their children and waitlists are too long. Even those rural children lucky enough to get a place in an early education centre, the number of hours available are often inadequate and impractical for parents and carers.

Equally challenging – the number of qualified educators in rural and remote areas is really limited and centres are finding it hard to attract and retain staff. Both issues are creating an unprecedented crisis in our rural communities – the knock-on effect means other essential rural services like police, teachers, vets are struggling to recruit, and it becomes a major stumbling block for many candidates due to childcare considerations.

 

Housing shortages in rural and remote areas is another a compounding effect.  Reports from the pre-schools RFW supports are telling us early educators are couch surfing or having to live away from home during the week to work. These conditions are commonly reported and not sustainable. Some examples of these issues:

  • Barraba – a town of 1200 people NW of Tamworth, NSW – there is no childcare or long day care in the town and no before or after school care at the school. It is a 45 mins drive each way to access long day care.
  • Bundaberg in QLD – there is a 12-month waitlist for the one paediatrician in town. There are similarly big wait lists for allied health services.
  • Bourke in western NSW – there are 50 kids on the waitlist to access childcare.

 

Jacqui Emery, Chief Executive of Royal Far West says “Early learning is one of the best gifts we can give our children. We know children who attend high-quality early learning are better prepared to enter school and have better outcomes later in life. School readiness – including social, emotional, developmental and educational readiness to engage with the first year of school – should be a key outcome to include in the Government’s new strategy”.

The Early Years Strategy aims to remedy this and create a new, integrated approach which prioritises the wellbeing, education and development of Australia’s youngest children and the clear inequities between children living in rural and remote areas compare to children who live in major cities must be addressed within this Strategy.

 

To read the full submission click here

Royal Far West is happy to provide more details and expand on this submission.