Northern Territory Government Newsroom

Federal Government abandons Territory children

The Turnbull Government has abandoned our most vulnerable Territorians – young children – by slashing early childhood funding without warning in the 2018-19 Federal Budget.

Treasurer Scott Morrison quietly cut funding to regulate quality standards at childcare centres while publicly spruiking an “unexpected revenue windfall” that gave big business and middle income earners tax relief.

“The Federal Government has turned its back on our youngest Territorians,” Northern Territory Education Minister Eva Lawler said.

“Australia will not close the gap for indigenous, vulnerable and disadvantaged children without sustainable, ongoing funding for quality early childhood education.”

States, territories and the Commonwealth signed the National Partnership on the National Quality Agenda in 2009 to establish a national childcare standard and expose shonky operators.

Funding to the Territory has fallen from $840,000 in 2013-14 to $300,000 in 2017-18, before being completely withdrawn without prior warning in the latest federal budget.

Ms Lawler said the cuts will put the quality of more than 13,000 Territory childcare places at risk.

“Without a funded and functioning national quality system for early childhood, Australia is at risk of slipping further in its international standing in education,” she said.

“All the evidence from OECD countries where student performance exceeds that of Australian students shows that early childhood investment is crucial.

“Even the Federal Government’s own Gonski 2.0 report identified it as a critical area for improvement in Australia but the Federal Government has prioritised tax cuts to big business.”

While the Turnbull Government is withdrawing funding for early childhood, Ms Lawler said the Territory Labor Government had made it a key priority.

“We came to government with a promise to put children at the centre of our decision-making because we know that when we help kids reach developmental milestones, they are more likely to succeed at school and into adulthood,” Ms Lawler said.

“Under the Territory Government’s Starting Early for a Better Future Early Childhood Development Plan, we are investing an extra $35.6 million in early childhood.”

The additional funding will enable the establishment of 11 new Child and Family Centres and the expansion of the Families as First Teachers program to a further 14 sites by 2020.

The Federal Budget also confirmed the Commonwealth contribution to universal access to pre-school will cease at the end of 2019, leaving the Territory Government to foot the bill.

Media contact: Kim Stephens 0417 683 144