Member forums have played a huge part in highlighting the key challenges and opportunities in the Best Start, Best Life reforms.
Over Terms 1 and 2, sector councillors and members have been involved in consultative forums with the Department of Education and with early childhood minister Ingrid Stitt. These forums have been facilitated by the AEU, with members sharing stories and views on the opportunities, challenges and solutions they believe are key to the attraction and retention of the workforce, as well as ensuring that the reform is underpinned by quality and the rights of the child.
A huge thank you to members for their involvement and for so professionally, articulately and fiercely advocating for yourselves, children and families.
It is vitally important that the voices of the profession and AEU members are elevated – that you are represented at the decision-making table and contributing to the consultation process by having input into policy and funding outcomes as part of the Best Start, Best Life (BSBL) reforms.
We held six forums with a focus on: attraction and retention for early career teachers and experienced teachers; Preschool Field Officer (PFSO) program delivery; inclusion and early intervention; outdoor nature programs and spaces; building design and infrastructure; 30-hour model delivery; the development of a consultative tool for employers and employees; and pay and conditions.
We know that, from a workforce perspective, the introduction of any big reform comes with uncertainties, fear, excitement, challenges, opportunities, and lots of questions. Some of these questions can be answered now, and some of the answers are still unknown. That is why consultation is key as part of the BSBL reform, and why the AEU will provide many opportunities for members to be heard. As with any consultation process, we may not get everything we ask for, but central to our role as unionists and members is that we continue to collectively show up, stand up, and keep fighting and advocating.
As a direct result of the strong advocacy of AEU members, this year’s state budget included announcements around inclusion, with an allocation of $18 million to better support children with disability or developmental delay. This commitment includes improving access to Preschool Field Officer services in high-growth areas and continuing the well-used Specialist Equipment Program. Also, improving access to Kindergarten Inclusion Support programs, including developing and evaluating new ways for children to engage fully in kinder programs.
We will seek to ensure that AEU members’ voices are contributing to this process, as you are best placed to discuss the challenges, inequities and opportunities that can be gained by having a review of Kindergarten Inclusion Support.
The significant investment into early childhood education delivers a social reform that will go some way towards addressing the inequities experienced by some of our littlest citizens, especially our most vulnerable children and families. Any reform that addresses social justice issues and that is underpinned by free, quality public education is a social reform – and, as, as a union, we welcome that.