Interview - Mix 104.9 Darwin Breakfast with Greg and Ilaria - Childcare reforms in NT

  • Assistant Minister for Education

Mix 104.9 Breakfast with Greg and Ilaria, Darwin

SUBJECT: Child care reforms in the Northern Territory.

GREG: Well, according to new figures just released, Territory children spend more time in child care than children in any other state or territory in Australia. Now, we have with more details, we're joined by the Federal Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley. Morning, Sussan.

SUSSAN LEY: Good morning, Greg and Ilaria.

GREG: How much time are Northern Territory children spending in child care?

SUSSAN LEY: Well quite a lot. And it’s actually more than anywhere else in the country. I think - I mean I was talking to Natasha Griggs about this, your local MP, and I think it's probably because parents don't have extended support. So they're in child care for an average of over 28 hours a week. And then some other states it's as low as 24, or even 22.

ILARIA: Yeah, true. Greg and I were talking about that. Yeah, you don't have the support network that maybe you had down south. If you've moved here from down south, you don't have the grandparents, you don't have the relatives. So how are you working to make this a little bit more accessible for families?

SUSSAN LEY: We've got a Productivity Commission inquiry. We've had a draft report; we've got final submissions closing on the fifth of September. And I really want Territorians to have their say before then, before this Friday. But what we're looking at is new policies for a new generation of families. The old policies worked for the 9-5 working week. We know we're in 24-7 economy. People work shift work, they work out of hours. In Darwin there's a lot of hospitality and there's a lot of fly-in and fly-out. So, we've got to have a child care system that supports that. So we're well on the way to getting there, because this is an economy-wide review of the system and as I said, we want everyone to have their say.

GREG: And where can they go to have their say?

SUSSAN LEY: Onto the website, And it's as simple as sending a quick email. No complicated submission process, just tell us what you think. And the PC will give its report to us in October, and we'll decide what we do. But I've asked them to be bold and brave, and I know the Government will be bold and brave in its response. Because rapidly, child care is becoming unaffordable for families and that's a huge problem. You can't afford to stay at home, you can't afford to go back to work.

ILARIA: And it's not just about child care, it's about quality child care, I would say, and a high quality environment is going to be quite wonderful for a child. How are you planning on supporting child care facilities on the ground, in the NT?

SUSSAN LEY: That's absolutely right, Ilaria. It's early education and care. I say child care as a bit of shorthand, but it's not the babysitting it was a generation ago either. It's something that really does contribute to a child's learning and development. So we know we've got high quality. I know we've got high quality in the Territory. And the important thing is that that quality doesn't make the price go up so much that parents can't afford it. And then that's the policy challenge for us – we've got to get that right. Because we've got more educators on the floor, and we've got more qualifications. But, you know, I want the next generation to be training in this area. We've seen in the Territory too many people coming in on 457 visas and working in our child care centres. I don't mind that, I've got nothing against that. They're all good people. But I also see a high level of youth unemployment, and young people without the direction that they could have if they had a career in early education care, which is a really meaningful career. You can start at the Certificate III level, work your way up, and really contribute and love your job.

GREG: Federal Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley. Thank you for spending a bit of time with Greg and Ilaria this morning.

SUSSAN LEY: Thank you, thanks for having me on the programme.


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