Bill Speech: Children’s Services Amendment Bill 2019

Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (14:05:40): I am very pleased to rise to speak on the Children’s Services Amendment Bill 2019. Following on from the member for St Albans, I would also like to pay my absolute respect to all of the early childhood service workers in Yuroke, whether that be in our terrific kinders, whether that be in our day care centres, whether that be our family day centres—any of those services. Regardless of where they are run from, I think they all do a terrific job. I reflect on that very, very long time ago now when I had to make a decision to find somewhere to put my son into child care. Initially he went to a long day carer, and she did a fantastic job. She was a wonderful woman and she took that role incredibly seriously. You did not take your child there to be minded for the day. You did not take your child there to just be babysat, for want of a better word, while you were off doing something else. These carers do a terrific job, and they do a terrific job by recognising that from the get-go these are little sponges that they have in their care and they absorb everything that you put before them, so starting that educational component early is always better. I remain incredibly grateful for the service that both the family day care provider provided for my son as well as the long day care that was then required when I was taking on other duties that meant I was not able to be there for him during the day. Some of those days are quite long days. Some of those days do not finish until you collect them at 6 o’clock, and it is really important to know that the standard is high and that these are quality services. That is what I was very fortunate to have. Turning to the details of this bill, the objective of the bill is to align the Children’s Services Act 1996 with the national quality framework, where appropriate, to provide a consistent licensing framework for all Victorian early childhood education and care services. The bill will amend the Children’s Services Act to achieve consistency in terminology with the Education and Care Services National Law and introduce objectives and guiding principles that align with the national law; align assessment and approvals processes for premises and services by including a one‑step service approval process and by providing for perpetual licences; align operational requirements for services such as notification of incidents and complaints and the provision of an early childhood program based on an approved learning framework; and align offence, monitoring and compliance provisions with the more comprehensive framework contained in the national law. Children’s services will not be assessed and quality rated against the national quality standard, and the bill will make transitional arrangements to ensure that providers who currently operate under the Children’s Services Act and/or the national law can smoothly transition into the newly aligned scheme. Once again this goes to demonstrating how important early childhood is to this government. There is an absolute mountain of work that is being done to provide support to early childhood services and early childhood learning, such as the children’s facilities capital grants program, which is a terrific program. Local preschools in Yuroke have received over $80 000 from this program for new laptops and tablets as well as capital works for new offices and rest rooms. These include the $10 000 refurbishment works at Attwood Childcare Centre and Kindergarten; funds for IT equipment at Malcolm Creek Preschool, Craigieburn Child and Family Centre, KU Craigieburn Children’s Centre, Craigieburn Global Learning Centre and Hilton Street Preschool—all terrific services in my electorate. We are providing school readiness funding to support programs that improve children’s language development, social and emotional resilience and support access and inclusion in kindergarten. Kindergarten services through this funding will be able to tap into the expertise of speech and occupational therapists, language and literacy professionals and child psychologists. In the Yuroke electorate 25 services will share in just short of $810 000 of school readiness funding. This funding will be making sure that our early childhood learners get the best start as they take the next step in their education. We are also supporting early childhood services by providing an additional 300 scholarships to aspiring kinder teachers, as well as $9000 incentives to support early childhood teachers to move to areas where three-year-old kinder is rolling out. That is important for two reasons. One, it shows our utmost respect and regard for kinder teachers. We want to encourage them. We want more of them. They are terrific, and certainly we want the best to come forward and do that. But the three-year-old kinder initiative is again reinforcing that the earlier you start the education component of care the better the outcomes are. We do recognise the importance of this early childhood learning. We recognise the benefits of accessing that earlier. That is why over the next decade every Victorian child will have access to a full 15 hours of three-year-old kinder a week. That is a terrific initiative. It is a very bold initiative. It is going to take some time to roll out, but the benefits that that program alone will derive will be enormous. We recognise, support and celebrate the work of the childcare sector throughout the state with the Victorian Early Years Awards. These acknowledge early childhood services, professionals and organisations and the crucial work that they do to support our littlest Victorians. We support access to early childhood services through the inclusive kindergarten facilities program, which helps to improve classrooms and playgrounds, including inclusive education equipment such as movable wheelchair‑access ramps and adjustable tables and chairs. Again, we are doing this from our earliest years so that this access and inclusivity is happening from the get‑go. Of course there is the early childhood languages program that I heard the member for St Albans speak so fondly about, and I agree with her wholeheartedly. In Yuroke six services have signed up to commence this program of providing 3 hours per week in the kinder program where the children learn in another language. The Annadale Community Centre, the Bluebird Way Child and Family Centre, the Craigieburn Child and Family Centre, the Craigieburn Early Childhood Services Centre, the KU Craigieburn Children’s Centre and the Pembroke Crescent Preschool Centre are all going to be rolling out the Arabic language as part of the early childhood languages program. As a growth area Yuroke is also benefiting from the $1.6 billion‑plus of investment that this government is making in new kindergartens and expanded kinder services. We have done a lot of this work in partnership with Hume City Council. It is a terrific partnership, and I am very grateful for the relationship that we have with them. We have already opened the Annadale community hub, the Newbury community centre and the Kalkallo interim kindergarten, which is a terrific $1.9 million centre, of which we contributed $925 000. It will service many of those new families in the northern growth area of my electorate while they are waiting for the $5.7 million Cloverton South community hub, which is currently underway, to open in 2021. Most recently we opened the just short of $8 million Aitken Hill Community Centre, to which we contributed $1.6 million. This is a terrific facility. I enjoy visiting this facility because it has been done in a way that is light and bright. It has beautiful rammed-earth walls, lots of windows and exposed timber, and the three kindergarten rooms there are full of these very excited little people who are clearly quite happy and enjoying that space immensely. And we have got more facilities underway. The Greenvale integrated children’s hub, which includes a $1.6 million contribution from this government, is adjacent to Greenvale West Primary School, which will open in 2021. Like the Aitken Hill centre, which is adjacent to Aitken Hill Primary School, we are creating these education and early childhood hubs where parents and families will not be needing to do two drop‑offs in two distinct areas across the community; these are adjacent, side by side—early learning following on to primary school learning. The Merrifield West northern community hub is another one that is coming up, and we have contributed $1.55 million towards that. The Merrifield West northern community hub will, funnily enough, be right near Merrifield West Primary School, which will be opening in 2021 also. Again, those two facilities are servicing an area to the north of my electorate which is growing so rapidly. There are many, many families there; there are many more to come. They will all get immense use from these facilities. I welcome the investment of this government, and I commend this bill to the house.