14 July 2015 | General Interest
SNAICC congratulates the Western Australian Government on its leadership to secure futures for the five Aboriginal Child and Family Centres located across the state. We hope that this move will enable the Centres to continue operating as culturally strong, integrated education and family support services.
The Centres in Western Australia are amongst 38 centres established across the country in recent years as part of the Closing the Gap partnership agreement between federal and state governments. All 38 centres have faced uncertainty, with Australian Government funding for the centres discontinued in 2014.
As of 2016, the five WA centres will be incorporated within the state Child and Parent Centres program. They will join the 16 current Child and Parent Centres across the state, that operate to improve access to a range of early learning, parenting, child and maternal health and well-being programs and services that provide support to families with young children.
A competitive tender process will be implemented to secure management of the Centres from 2016 onwards. The new arrangement will fund the integrated family support element of the Child and Family Centres. The child care elements will need to operate under Commonwealth Government child care funding, as the WA Department of Education is not mandated to administer child care.
Whilst SNAICC commends the WA Government’s commitment to the ACFCs, we do raise two concerns. Firstly, we are concerned about the lack of secure, ongoing funding for the child care components of the centres – as evidence indicates that early childhood education programs are particularly critical for children facing disadvantage and vulnerability. Requiring the child care components to function off mainstream funding alone will necessitate a substantial rise in fees, which is likely to prevent low-income families from enrolling their children. This will undermine the purpose of the Centres to provide integrated early childhood education and family support programs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
SNAICC is also concerned about the competitive tendering process, which will require ACFCs to dedicate substantial time and resources to producing applications, and may disadvantage smaller community-based organisations. SNAICC strongly encourages the WA Government to support and prioritise local Aboriginal community leadership in the selection of service operators, to ensure that the centres are community-operated and targeted to promote access for and meet the needs of Aboriginal families.
These centres are exceptionally strong examples of integrated early years services – providing community-driven hubs that not only provide high quality early childhood services to children, but also support or connect vulnerable families to access an array of integrated services. We know that these centres are having significant impact in improving the safety, health and wellbeing of families and communities. They are also key providers of local employment and training – enabling local people to have access, often for the first time, to employment.
SNAICC looks forward to the continuation of the fantastic work these centres do – including their strong local leadership, innovative approaches and improved outcomes for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
To read more on the impact of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child and Family Centres, and what is needed to enable them to continue their critical service supports to children and families, visit the SNAICC Policy hub.
For more information on SNAICC’s work supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Family Centres, or to get involved, please email Emma Sydenham at email@example.com.