Discovery Early Learning Centre CEO Jo Walsh calls for federal government to offer free universal childcare

EARLY WORM: Early childhood educator Rachelle Dell reads to children at Discovery's Ulverstone Early Learning Centre. Picture: Simon Sturzaker
EARLY WORM: Early childhood educator Rachelle Dell reads to children at Discovery's Ulverstone Early Learning Centre. Picture: Simon Sturzaker

Every Tasmanian child should have access to three free days of childcare per week from birth, the chief of a childcare organisation has said.

Discovery Early Learning Centres CEO Jo Walsh said she was hoping the COVID-19 crisis would present the government with an opportunity to rethink how childcare is funded and valued in Australia.

"We were quite disappointed the government didn't use this opportunity to change the system," Mrs Walsh said.

"Government funding and the way they fund a service has an impact on the way the society views that service."

On Monday federal education minister Dan Tehan announced the free childcare program introduced during the pandemic would cease on July 13, and childcare workers would no longer have access to JobKeeper from July 20.

Independent Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest also called on the federal and state governments to use the opportunity to reset the approach to childcare and education more broadly.

Both women said the rethink would require investment which would possibly not show returns for a generation.

"It always comes back to who is going to pay, but this is the sort of thing that governments should be focusing their attention on," Ms Forrest said.

"The cost of not doing it should be factored in. The future low health literacy, the poor participation in the workforce, it should all be factored in."

Mrs Walsh referred to studies which have shown the first five years of a child's life are the most important in developing the skills translate to social, literacy and numeracy success in the future.

"The benefit on the children is immeasurable and we would really like to see a shift in thinking to focus on the children."

State education minister Jeremy Rockliff said Tasmania had supported childcare centres throughout the pandemic with waivers of various financial burders, and pointed to a program which provided 120 children with 400 hours of free pre-school in 2020.

Federal education minister Dan Tehan said the commonwealth subsidises childcare with $8.3 billion per year, but did not offer his opinion on free childcare.

This story Care free kids? Calls for universal free childcare first appeared on The Advocate.