Legislative Council: Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Regional Childcare Services

In reply to the Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) ().14 June 2023).

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Education has advised:

1. The government is committed to ensuring families in regional and remote areas can access the high-quality early childhood education and care they need. The government has established the Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care, which is examining the extent to which families are supported in the first 1000 days of life. The royal commission will hand down its findings by 31 August 2023.

It is important to recognise that funding for childcare is a federal government responsibility. Our government continues to actively work with the federal government on opportunities to ensure that childcare funding supports the delivery of childcare in regional and remote locations.

There is also a range of work being done nationally to support greater access, including the Productivity Commission's review of ECEC, the ACCC's inquiry into childcare prices, and work to develop a National Vision on Early Childhood Education and Care. South Australia is participating in this work.

At a local level, the state government has a team within the Department for Education that is dedicated to working with regional communities to support local led solutions to childcare issues. This team is providing direct support to 24 regional communities.

This team has been integral in supporting many rural SA communities to establish childcare facilities. This includes Kingston South East where the government has committed $2.5 million to relocate the preschool to the school site to allow for co-located childcare and preschool services.

The department is also exploring options to establish family day care programs to help bridge the gap in communities that need greater choice and flexibility, either as an alternative to or alongside centre-based care options.

2. The Education Standards Board is the South Australian regulatory authority responsible for regulating the provision of early childhood services under the Education and Care Services National Law (South Australia) (National Law SA) adopted under the Education and Early Childhood Services (Registration and Standards) Act 2011 (SA). The Education Standards Board considers applications for service approvals in accordance with the National Law SA and National Regulations. In determining a service approval application, it is not within the Education Standards Board's legislative remit to make a determination based on market requirements. In regulating education and care service providers, the Education Standards Board's primary consideration is the welfare and best interests of children and young people.

However, there is a range of work underway that will support the accessibility of ECEC in regional areas, including the Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care, the Productivity Commission's inquiry into ECEC, the ACCC's childcare price inquiry, and the National Vision on Early Childhood Education and Care. This work will examine the appropriate regulatory, funding, and policy settings to ensure that regional and remote areas have access to high-quality ECEC.

3. Through the work of many government departments including the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, as well as via the targeted investment of the Thriving Regions Fund, the Malinauskas government is supporting a range of initiatives that underpin enabling infrastructure, service delivery and capability development in regional South Australia.

This government has always had a strong commitment to regional development in the state. Providing enabling infrastructure and critical service delivery factors are key elements of our investment that will empower regional areas to attract and retain workforce, enhance liveability and increase population so that regional, rural and remote townships don't just survive but thrive.