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|Title:||Funding children’s services|
|Keywords:||Early childhood education -- Australia.|
Child care -- Australia.
|Publisher:||Sydney University Press|
|Citation:||Kids Count: Better early childhood education and care in Australia|
|Abstract:||It is now over 30 years since the original federal Child Care Act was passed in the dying days of the McMahon Liberal government but funding and policy issues are still confused and contested. Many more child care places exist and more funding is provided, but Australia still lacks an integrated national childcare system that recognises the importance of the early years, and the need for effective national policy for both early childhood care and education. Most of the problems are depressingly familiar, after my thirty-plus years of involvement in this policy area, but there are some worrying newer aspects. In the three-plus decades of public debate on funding and providing such services, there have been major shifts in political frameworks and priorities. These affect supply, quality and affordability, so our questions and answers need to be reframed in current cultural social and political frameworks. The changing demographic patterns, such as falling birth rates, delayed childbearing, increased female education and workforce participation, affect demand questions. The shifts in political frameworks will affect supply and funding. Universal publicly funded child care was one of the key feminist issues we raised in the seventies, as more women were moving into paid work. Our hoped-for national program of quality affordable care ran up against the arguments about whether women should be encouraged to be in paid work and pressure to retain the separation between education and care. Before this divide could be resolved, the arguments were overtaken by the 1980s change of political directions to neo-liberalism which diminished the role of the state. Child care was expanded but in a framework which shifted collective risks from the individual by shifting from public services to market forces. Commercial child care was funded by 1990 and the expansion of market providers was encouraged by policy changes after 1996. Overlapping with these changes in the mid 1990s were other, often contradictory, ideological shifts away from the 1980s emphasis on encouraging self provision and private providers. This move signalled the ascendancy of neo-conservatism, indicated by the move away from smaller deregulated governments to increasing size, centralised controls and complex demands for accountability by bureaucratic requirements. The new political masters used this increase in interventions to promote moral agendas and neoconservative views. The changes are most evident in the social policy areas where government funding was to be directed at promoting conservative social positions.|
|Appears in Collections:||Kids Count: Better early childhood education and care in Australia|
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