Welcome back folks to Connolly’s Corner!
If you’ve been following State politics over the last couple of weeks, you’ll know the Andrews Labor Government has just announced the biggest reform to childcare in Victoria’s history. In a move that will forever change our early learning system for the better, we will make kinder free for kids, from the ages of 3 and up from the beginning of 2023.
This is a relief for so many household budgets, with some families spending up to 25% of their income on childcare. That’s a lot, especially when the cost of living continues to go up. By making kinder free, families will save up to $2,500 per child a year.
Both Mums and Dads are set to benefit from this reform. For women in particular, this is a game changer. When it comes to childcare, 28% of women had cost as their reason for not entering the workforce. In February this year, that meant that 28,800 potential workers, almost exclusively women, did not participate. Shocking, isn’t it. The unfortunate reality is that nationwide, our parenting policies entrench a system that leads to women being forced to drop out of the workforce once a child is born – in many instances for good. It’s certainly a struggle I experienced after I gave birth to Emily and Leo. By taking the cost of childcare out of the equation, we’re giving more choices to families. Because it shouldn’t just be a choice between working or raising a family.
But this isn’t just about helping out parents. We know that 90% of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of 5. In fact, one in five Australian children enter primary school developmentally vulnerable. That’s why these early years are critical in setting them up for the best life. That’s why our Labor Government spent this term rolling out three-year old kinder across the State, with Wyndham jumping on board this year. As part of this announcement, four-year-old kinder will become another year of universal pre-prep kindergarten. This means that over the next decade, four year old kinder will increase to 30 hours a year, giving kids more time with teacher-led, play-based learning opportunities to develop social, emotional and cognitive skills that will benefit them for life.
When I think about Wyndham, where more than 120 babies are born each week, and the average family is a 32 year old couple with two small children, where at least 4% of workers in the suburb of Tarneit alone are childcare workers, I know that this policy will make a huge difference in the lives of local families. It will save thousands of dollars for families each year. It will help women in our community get back to work, and most importantly, it will give our kids the best start in life, for the rest of their life.