Thrive by Five is an initiative of the Minderoo Foundation campaigning to make Australia’s early learning childcare system high quality, affordable and universally accessible.
Joining the Campaign was an obvious choice for ANMF. Access to high quality, affordable early learning and childcare impacts the health of children, families and communities across generations. Nurses and midwives are affected by inequitable access to childcare. As a female-dominated profession, it is essential we work in unity with other stakeholders to address cross-sectorial gender inequality.
As nurses and midwives, we know how crucial the first five years of a child’s life are for optimal growth, development and health into adulthood. Our work with families with infants and young children aims to optimise growth and development for lifelong health and wellbeing.
A well-developed early learning and childcare system would complement this work by recognising the relationship between development, health and education. Childcare must be viewed first and foremost as an opportunity to invest in children’s health and development. Every child needs politicians to shift their thinking to view time spent in early learning and childcare as a chance to give all kids a head start in life.
This investment will be repaid with interest. While children are at the heart of the Thrive By Five campaign, early learning and childcare reform will have far reaching implications for the broader community. The Campaign highlights the significant economic, social and educational costs that currently exist and follow on from an underfunded and poorly structured early learning and childcare system. Decreased workforce participation, lower educational outcomes, widening gender disparity, and increased burden to care for older Australians, just to name a few.
To explore this, let’s take financial security for women as an example. Women are more likely to reduce workforce participation to care for their children and counterbalance childcare costs. They are also more likely to have been earning, and to earn, a lower wage than their male counterparts before and following becoming a parent. Consequently, women’s already reduced lifetime earning capacity is compounded by a lack of viable childcare options.
By providing affordable early learning and childcare which is high quality and accessible to all, women will gain increased choice over their workforce participation and be more likely to achieve economic independence.
Higher lifetime earnings and increased superannuation contributions for women will not only offer their family additional financial security but also deliver an economic benefit of greater financial independence in retirement. It will also help women to leave an abusive relationship, according to fellow campaign supporter White Ribbon Executive Director Brad Chilcott.
Financial security and employment opens up options for women and creates opportunities for security in the face of family violence. Lastly, this reform enables women to continue to progress their career and for all people in Australia to benefit from the skills and expertise women contribute across all sectors whilst caring for children.
As many nurses and midwives are parents and carers themselves, the Thrive By Five campaign narratives around early learning and childcare access and affordability are also relevant. Shift work, rotating rosters, long shifts and night shifts make it difficult for many nurses and midwives to access affordable, quality childcare that aligns with their work hours.
The Campaign offers the ANMF the opportunity to highlight the challenges nurses and midwives who are parents and carers experience to balance workforce participation and care responsibilities and lobby in unity with other organisations for a more flexible and universally accessible system.
Recent budget announcements to deliver funding of $1.7bn to the sector falls short on delivering the reform needed. Governments need to think beyond childcare as a childminding service and embrace the educational, economic and societal benefits that will flow on from investment in early childhood education not just for children, women and families but all people in Australia.
So what can you do to show your support for the campaign alongside the ANMF?
Visit the campaign at thrivebyfive.org.au and get involved by:
- Signing the petition;
- Signing the open letter; and/or
- Sharing your story about accessing early learning and childcare or the impact of childcare fees on your family and participation in work.