‘Early childhood education reform was meant to be my purpose here’: Departing MP Kate Ellis on her time in Parliament

Member for Adelaide Kate Ellis MP has delivered her farewell speech to the House of Representatives, and has called on Australia to prioritise reforming the nation’s early education system to ensure it is fairer.

Ms Ellis was the Minister for Early Childhood Education between 2009 and 2013, and served as the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Early Education between 2013 and 2017. She announced in 2017 that she would be leaving Parliament at the next election.

During her time in Government Ms Ellis oversaw the implementation of the National Quality Framework reforms, as well as the National Partnership for Universal Access to Early Education in the year before school.

In her valedictory speech in the House of Representatives on Monday, Ms Ellis made particular note of her time working on early education policy, describing it as “her purpose here”.

“I’m really proud of my work in establishing and entrenching the National Quality Framework, despite the challenges of getting all states and territories, from all different political persuasions, to agree and commit,” said Ms Ellis. “I’m proud that universal access to kindergarten for four-year-olds is now established and recognised as critically important.”

Ms Ellis also noted Labor’s recent commitment to extend this access to three-year olds, as well as highlighting her concerns with the recent Jobs for Families reforms implemented by the Government.

“It’s shameful that the Government has taken the backward step of linking children’s support and early education to their parents’ activities rather than as a fundamental universal right.”

Ms Ellis also highlighted her concerns with sector advocacy around the Jobs for Families package, saying: “It was deeply disappointing that many of those charged with being the key advocates for children sought to compromise with the government rather than staunchly oppose the decreasing of many children’s access.”

Ms Ellis described her work in early education reform as “unfinished business”, and called on the Parliament to put children at the centre of decision-making and policy debates.

“There remains much to do. I have publicly argued that our early childhood system is fundamentally broken. It should be universal, quality and as simple to navigate as our school system.”


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