By Bridget Brennan
Aboriginal childcare centres are worried the Federal Government’s planned changes to the sector could derail progress on a Closing the Gap target.
If the Government’s Jobs for Families Child Care legislation passes Parliament, many Aboriginal childcare centres face changes to the way they are funded and the way in which parents can access subsidies.
The Senate’s Education Committee is due to hand down its report after receiving dozens of submissions to an inquiry examining the Government’s proposal.
The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) said its modelling predicted enrolments at Indigenous-run centres would drop by up to 9 per cent if the proposed changes went ahead.
Already the Government is behind on its Closing the Gap target to get 95 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in child care by 2025.
Currently, 74 per cent of Indigenous children are enrolled in child care in regional areas, and 67 per cent in urban areas.
Deputy chairwoman of SNAICC, Geraldine Atkinson, said the legislation could restrict access to early learning for vulnerable children, because parents would have to prove they were working, training or studying to classify for more than 12 hours per week of subsidised child care.
“It’s our children that are going to be punished,” she said.
“If the Government is worried about closing the gap in education, they need to have a good hard look at the package they’re trying to get through the Parliament.
“When you think about someone on a $37,000 salary that we have [in] our community, they’re not high salaries.”
But Education Minister Simon Birmingham said he was confident Aboriginal childcare services would be able to increase the number of children they cared for if the changes were passed.
“There’s a lot of extra support on the table that perhaps isn’t as well understood as it should be,” he said.