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SNAICC calls for affordable childcare for Indigenous families in upcoming budget

Dechlan Brennan -

The peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children has called for affordable childcare for Indigenous families in the upcoming federal budget. 

SNAICC — National Voice for our Children, propose the current government subsidy, which covers 90 per cent of at least 18 hours of childcare a week, be increased to 95 or 100 per cent of 30 hours, as well calling for the federal government to abolish the childcare subsidy activity test.

SNAICC chief executive, Catherine Liddle said addressing inequality and helping to close the gap had to begin in the early years of childhood. 

“Childcare is not just a place for children to go while their parents are at work, it is hugely beneficial for building children’s social and cognitive skills, and getting them school-ready,” Ms Liddle said.  

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are less likely to attend early learning and more likely to start school developmentally vulnerable. And the evidence shows that when children start school behind, they struggle to catch up and are more likely to disengage.”

Ms Liddle said investment in early childhood learning was a way to ensure fewer children ended up in the child protection system, as well as interacting with the youth justice system at an early age. 

“These systems are costly and perpetuate harm and trauma for children,” she said. 

Ms Liddle highlighted the role Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) played, arguing they had many benefits - including culturally safe programs for children that support their cultural identity - and were trusted by families as a place to send their children, but were besieged by uncertain funding. 

“They provide holistic, wraparound services that provide so much more than just childcare, often acting as an entry point for families to access broader health and social support services,” she said. 

Ms Liddle called for them to be given more funding, a recommendation recently made by both the ACCC and Productivity Commission in recent inquiries into early childhood learning. 

SNAICC also urged the abolishment of the activity test, which determines how much of a family's childcare costs the government will cover based on how many hours they work.

“The activity t est is preventing the most vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, whose families may be in precarious work or under-employed, to miss out on the educational opportunities they need to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and injustice,” Ms Liddle said. 

She said SNAICC were also wanting to see a continued investment in their Early Years Support program, which “builds and develops early childhood services and the workforce".
 
“On budget day we will be looking to the government to make a long-term investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by setting them up to thrive from the start,” Ms Liddle said. 

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