Release type: Speech


Launch of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation's Trauma-informed Practice: A guide for Early Childhood organisations


The Hon Dr Anne Aly MP
Minister for Early Childhood Education
Minister for Youth


Thank you so much for having me here this morning. I would like to start by acknowledging the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional owners and custodians of the lands on which we meet today. It's a bit sad that Uncle Tony has left, but I would have thanked him also for his beautiful welcome to country and for the gracious way in which he welcomed us all onto the traditional lands. I pay my respects to elders past, present, and emerging. And I want to acknowledge the ongoing cultural and educational practices of the traditional owners of the land. I extend that respect to any First Nations People joining us here today.

Can I also take this opportunity to reaffirm the Albanese Government's commitment to constitutional recognition and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. This is not the idea of politicians. This is the idea, and indeed the gracious invitation of Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are being left behind. I know that I am in a room of people who know that, who see that, and who understand that. They have lower life expectancy, higher rates of disease, higher rates of infant mortality, and fewer opportunities for education and training. We know that the current system isn't working and that's why Indigenous Australians are asking, very small ask, for a Voice.

So, I look forward to voting Yes in about 48 hours time. What day are we? Wednesday. 72 hours. As you can see, math was never my strength. In Saturday's referendum. And I look forward to being part of a once in a generation chance to bring our country together and to change our country for the better. And I hope that you will all join me.

So, it is absolutely wonderful to be with you here today at this very special event. And I'd like to just take a moment to acknowledge some people in the room. First of all, my colleague and my dear friend, the Member for Chisholm, Dr. Carina Garland, who has such an incredible passion for children's wellbeing. And it's great to see her here today. Sarah Davies and Lee Cameron and the entire team at the Alannah and Madeline Foundation – thank you so much for having me here today. Joining us from Gallery Victoria today, Paul Geyer and Susan Anderson, Dr. Claire Blewitt and the team from Monash University Health and Social Care Unit. And can I also acknowledge the Bowden Marstan Foundation and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. Thank you all for being here today as well.

Now, I believe I'm in a room of people who know this, so I don't have to tell you just how important the first five years of a child's life are. And that if we get those first five years right, if we get those early years right, we have the ability to change the trajectory of a child's life.

If we just take a moment to pause on the weight of that, the ability to change the trajectory of a child's life is something quite phenomenal. What we hold in our hands is the ability to help a child overcome disadvantage and overcome adversity. And as I often say, no child born into any form of disadvantage should have to carry that disadvantage throughout their life.

But the reality is that children who experience disadvantage and adversity also often experience trauma. And it might be hard for people to think about a two year old or an 18 month old or a three year old experiencing trauma, but it is a reality of far too many of our precious children.

So, it's an absolute honour to be here today for the launch of this very important resource, not only as the Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education, but also as a mother who has children who have experienced trauma at a very young age and who have lived with that trauma.

We know that a safe and caring environment created by quality early childhood education can defend against the impacts of trauma on children. And as my family can attest, quality early childhood educators and teachers are uniquely placed to help identify problems early and to ensure children and families are referred on to the right services. Early childhood education and teachers are able to do this because of their professionalism, because of their expertise, and because of the unique relationships that they have with the children that they educate and that are in their care.

But I was very pleased to also see that we are mindful here of the impact that this can have on our early childhood educators and teachers, that idea of vicarious trauma. And a trauma informed approach is important to also ensuring staff are well supported in the delivery of education and care programs to children and families. So, you minimise the risk of re-traumatisation and minimise vicarious trauma. It's good to see the guide being launched here today looks to build the sector's understanding of trauma and how it presents and impacts staff, children and families in early childhood education and care settings.

I look forward to seeing the next steps for this new guide, including potentially seeing the Alannah and Madeline Foundation work with the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority – ACECQA – on this important work and in moving it forward.

I congratulate the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, Monash University's Health and Social Care Unit, Gallery Victoria and the Steering Committee and Project Design Group for your work and for your dedication. And might I add here also for recognising that trauma exists in children and recognising that a trauma informed approach is necessary in early childhood education and settings, to equip educators to equip centres with dealing with children who are experiencing, or have experienced trauma. I'd also like to thank the Bowden Marstan Foundation and Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for their support, without which guide would certainly not have been possible.

So, this tool can help support early childhood educators and teachers as they in turn play an important role in supporting children and families experiencing trauma.

It complements other important work underway right across the early childhood education and care sector by various organisations and service providers to improve child safety and boost inclusion. This can be quite hard. Nobody's saying that this is easy work, it is difficult work, but it's important work, incredibly important work.

As we look to ensure that all children, no matter what their circumstances, no matter what their background, are able to access those transformative benefits of early years learning, a resource like this, moving towards trauma informed practice and helping educators and centres to work with children who have or are experiencing trauma is an important step forward in creating that world class early childhood education and care system that is truly fair, truly equitable and truly inclusive. I look forward to seeing the next steps of this important work. I congratulate you on where you have come so far and thank you very much for inviting me here this afternoon.