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Subsidised childcare boost for Indigenous families revealed by Federal Government

Callan Morse -

Indigenous families will be able to access more subsidised childcare as of mid-2023 under a new Federal Government plan.

The policy will be implemented from July next year, where Indigenous children will have access to up to 36 hours of subsidised childcare per fortnight, an increase of 12 hours per fortnight.

The policy is in response to the 2021 Closing the Gap report, which made for concerning reading regarding the readiness of Indigenous children for formal schooling.

Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said the policy targeted better support for pre-school aged Indigenous children.

"This is a practical measure directed to closing the gap in an area where we are going backwards," she said.

"Getting Indigenous children into early education will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

"It will make a big difference to Indigenous children across the country."

Currently only 4.3 per cent of children in early education and care identify as Indigenous, despite Indigenous children aged 0-5 years making up 6.1 per cent of the population.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said that disparity needed to change.

"For the first time, the Closing the Gap report said the school-readiness of Indigenous children has gone backwards," he said.

"We have got to turn this around and a big part of that is getting rid of the roadblocks stopping them from going to early childhood education and care."

The policy will include a $10.2 million investment to establish the Early Childhood Care and Development Policy Partnership between Indigenous representatives and federal and state governments.

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care will co-chair the partnership.

SNAICC chief executive Catherine Liddle said removal of the activity test and increased access to community-controlled services were priorities to improve access to childcare.

"We have to turn around the widening gap in school readiness," she said.

"The childcare activity test results in vulnerable children receiving less care.

"Many receive no care at all, with parents that don't meet the minimum threshold for the activity test often not engaging with the system.

"Add with the prevalence of childcare deserts in regional and remote areas with high Aboriginal populations, and it's not surprising we are seeing less Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children assessed as being developmentally ready for school."

The activity test was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, which lead to a 12 per cent increase in uptake of childcare by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

In 2021, 34.3 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children commencing school were assessed as being developmentally on track in all five Australian Early Development Census domains, a decrease of 1.2 per cent from the baseline year.

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