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National Kindergarten Reforms Advocacy

 

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About the campaign

In November 2008 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), as part of its early childhood reforms, endorsed the national agenda of universal access to 15 hours of kindergarten a week for four year-olds from 2013.

We agreed in principle with the reforms but additional federal and state funding was needed to move the Victorian system from 10 to 15 hours in the required timeframe.

Capacity assessments were undertaken by all Victorian councils in 2010 and 2011 to identify options and solutions to deliver 15 hours of kindergarten within their municipality. Through these assessments an infrastructure shortfall of at least $600 million was identified, as well as the need for 600 additional qualified teachers.

Our Universal access to kindergarten issues paper (2011) detailed what was needed to achieve 15 hours’ kindergarten access in Victoria by 2013 and called on the Australian Government to:

  • fund local government’s infrastructure and change management costs
  • invest in workforce initiatives to ensure demand for extra staff could be met
  • fully fund the additional five hours to ensure parents were not out of pocket when kinder programs increased from an average 10 to 15 hours per week.

From July 2013, almost all of the 73,000 Victorian preschoolers had access to a 15 hour program. However, the Australian Government has not committed to fund the operational costs of the additional five hours beyond December 2014. Without continued funding, Victorian parents would have to pay an extra $1,547 in fees per year. This represents a potential 129 per cent fee hike, which would make kindergarten costs unaffordable for many parents.

Our advocacy

Since 2010, the MAV has been actively advocating to the Australian and Victorian governments to secure funding commitments to assist local government to support implementation of the national 15 hours kindergarten reforms in Victoria. Over this period, $5.5m has been provided in federal funding to Victorian councils for operational planning and assessment, plus councils shared a further $4m to support change management. $174m of state/federal funding has also been provided for capital investment.

To achieve these outcomes, our advocacy efforts have included:
  • regular meetings and briefings with Victorian Ministers and Shadow Ministers
  • regular meetings with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)
  • submissions to the Victorian Budget, State kindergarten fee review, COAG mid-term review and Productivity Commission inquiries
  • meetings and briefings with Federal Ministers and Shadow Ministers
  • letters to successive Prime Ministers
  • input into ALGA submissions.

About kindergarten provision

Local government voluntarily invests significant funds and resources towards kindergarten provision – councils own the majority of facilities, are a major service planner and provider, and offer subsidies and other assistance for kinder programs.

To achieve the 15 hours national kindergarten reforms, Victorian councils invested $240 million of ratepayer funding towards capital investment in facilities.

Of Victoria’s 1,320 community-based kindergartens, at least 1,094 (83 per cent) operate from council-owned buildings.

The vast majority of Victorian kindergartens are operated on a not-for-profit basis by community organisations, councils, cluster managers or parent cooperatives.

Victoria’s ‘community model’ also relies on community and parent support (including fees and fundraising) to keep programs running.

This unique partnership model has resulted in more than 97.9 per cent of Victorian children attending 15 hour kindergarten programs in 2013.