Practical, workable solutions to address a lack of quality early childhood education and care in rural and remote areas came under the spotlight at a GrainGrowers CareConnect event in Canberra this week.
The CareConnect project builds on an earlier Roundtable event highlighting key barriers in rural and remote childhood education and care accessibility.
GrainGrowers CEO Shona Gawel said the event drew together key people to develop a strategy to improve childcare services in terms of care and educational capacity.
“Leading up to this discussion we interviewed a comprehensive list of highly qualified individuals, including growers, academics, ECEC operators and ECEC advocacy organisations, to get their thoughts on the factors that impact services.”
“The process reinforced the depth of the problems to bridge gaps in rural and remote childhood education and care.”
Ms Gawel said she was very pleased with the discussions undertaken at the CareConnect event.
“Going into the discussions, we wanted to bring together a forum for experts, stakeholders and impacted parties to collaborate and drive meaningful change. I think we have taken that step forward.”
“We now have agreement in the room to develop a range of initiatives to address the most pressing challenges of education and care in rural and remote regions of Australia.”
Ms Gawel said GrainGrowers would now take away the recommendations from the discussion and come back to the group with additional details on each of the initiatives.
The agreed initiatives cover a range of topics, including:
- Dedicated strategy development, including funding reform, focusing on support for rural and remote communities.
- Scoping for a GrainGrowers and Family Day Care Australia pilot program to test the feasibility of different approaches for better using existing assets and venues.
- Leadership and capacity building to assist with regulatory requirements across a range of delivery models.
GrainGrowers National Policy group member Denise McLellan (VIC) said she was glad to be involved in the conversation, particularly as it highlights a highly relevant issue for women in the grains industry.
“I’m quite proud of GrainGrowers for taking the leadership on this because it’s too easy for the industry to say, ‘it’s too hard’ or ‘it’s not my problem to fix’, and it’s something that’s been overlooked for a long time. Currently, many smart, talented, professional women in rural areas cannot contribute to the workforce because they can’t access childcare.”
“I am passionate about family farms often being the social fabric of rural communities, so any chance to be involved in that conversation has been fantastic. I’m looking forward to continuing the development of these initiatives through CareConnect,” she said.
Ms Gawel said the discussion highlighted the need to work collectively to address issues over the longer term.
“Our approach is to ensure childhood education and care becomes more accessible, efficient and supportive and operates in a way that benefits rural and remote communities, industries and families alike,” she said.
“Early childhood education is a vital but often overlooked ingredient in our industries and businesses.”
“Access to some form of early childhood education is important for us as farmers, as parents and most importantly is critical for all children in rural and remote communities.”
“This wonderful group of experts, advocates and industry have collectively agreed there is no one solution or silver bullet but have come up with some exciting and actionable ideas looking at new ways to address funding, infrastructure, advocacy and leadership and capacity building.”
GrainGrowers National Policy group member Kate Gunn (NSW)
“One of the key points from the discussion focused on how to ensure care in the regions is accessible.”
“Provision of services must be universal but not necessarily uniform. One suggestion highlights the potential for rural and remote funding to be distributed from the Federal level directly to local government authorities. Under this scenario those on the ground would be given authority to allocate funding based on their local context and needs.”
“The solution to current issues requires flexible, nimble, and responsive solutions. Where local challenges exist, we need to note that while the questions may be the same across rural Australia, the answers may be different in each unique location.”
GrainGrowers National Policy group member Tracy Lefroy (WA)
Media contact: Chris Rowley
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