Children’s Services Amendment Bill 2019 | Second Reading

Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (12:53:28): I am delighted to rise and speak on this bill, the Children’s Services Amendment Bill 2019, and I echo the sentiments expressed in the house by this side. This is an important bill. It is a bill that will provide a consistent licensing framework for all Victorian early childhood education and care services. My electorate of St Albans, as many would know, is the most multicultural and diverse community, I say, in Victoria. Just recently we have been absolutely ecstatic with the opening of the new Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a hospital that is providing first-class medical services, support and health to many, many patients, including children, in the west. Our government has made a commitment to a very comprehensive approach when it comes to children’s learning and development because we understand the importance of early development and the investment that should be made in the early years. We all know that the first 1000 days of a child’s development are absolutely critical. We understand that supporting families even before a child is born is absolutely critical as well. I was extremely pleased to hear some of the responses from parents at the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital about the baby bundle providing first-time parents with the information and resources that they need when it comes to the health, wellbeing and development of their babies. It has been absolutely welcomed in my community, in particular with the first-time parents. We understand, and that is why our government has provided close to $213 million when it comes to parenting packages alone. We are not just starting at the kindergarten and preschool levels, we are actually starting from way beyond that and investing in that first 1000 days that we understand is critical. As we all know, our government before the election promised to roll out three-year-old kinder. We have said that we will and that is exactly what we are doing. This is an $880 million package to begin the rollout of three-year-old kinders through the system and through our communities. In particular we are also providing that historic reform that we desperately required in Victoria. It is not easy undertaking Victoria’s biggest early education build—and that is exactly what this is. It is investing and creating those opportunities and most of all expanding 1000 new kindergarten facilities across Victoria. Most importantly it is creating 6000 new early childhood education jobs, and that is critical as well to our economy and to our communities. We all know that preschool and kinder are about bringing communities together and about bringing parents and carers together. It is not just a place where parents or carers drop their child, it is a place that distils the foundations in our children’s journeys across their lives. Our government has made it very, very clear—and at the centre point—that Victorian parents have access to an array of early years programs, including maternal and child health services, child care, early childhood intervention, family support services, playgrounds and kindergarten programs, which we are supporting. Next week I will have the pleasure of opening the upgraded Alexandra Avenue Children’s Centre in Sunshine. We will be officially opening this facility. The Andrews Labor government of course invested in this project and it is providing kindergarten and childcare services for Sunshine, and of course it is a precinct that provides maternal and child health services. I want to also make reference to and thank all of my providers, and in particular the Brimbank Preschool Association in St Albans for their level of service and their level of commitment at BPA Children’s Services under the leadership of CEO Steve Sutton. These providers have just done such a tremendous job across my electorate of St Albans in areas such Ardeer, Albion, Sunshine, St Albans, Kealba and Keilor Downs. They have really invested not only in their facilities, working hand in hand with the state government and Brimbank council, but also in their educators. I have had the opportunity of touring and visiting all of the centres and I see smiles from the kids, from the educators and from the parents. I think the funding that we have done, which has been minor, has gone a long way in those particular centres. So I want to thank all of the local educators, parents and families for all of their work in this area in providing the services. Of course I cannot go on without mentioning Acacia Children’s Centre in St Albans. As I said earlier on at the beginning of my statement, my electorate is the most multicultural and diverse centre, I believe, in Victoria. This particular childcare centre has a very strong Vietnamese community and they do very hard work, but recently they have begun running a Japanese language program as well. Sitting suspended 1.00 pm until 2.02 pm. Ms SULEYMAN: As I was saying, the Acacia Children’s Centre in St Albans is teaching the Japanese language, and we have the Jigsaw preschool teaching various other languages as well. There is no doubt the commitment to service and development in my electorate provided by the kindergartens across my electorate is one I fully commend. As I was just saying, the Jigsaw Childcare Centre is teaching Auslan programs to the kids. So my electorate’s kindergartens and preschools have really embraced the language program. Just recently I celebrated together with Polish community 65 years of the St Albans Polish school teaching Polish in St Albans. But getting back to the bill, I think this is a bill that really does demonstrate the commitment of the Andrews Labor government. We are not only investing in early years development but we are also investing in kinder, which is extremely important. I know in my community the continuous promotion to families to understand the true value of kindergarten and preschool development is so important. I did not have that opportunity when I was growing up but I know that my community will have the opportunities that will shape their future. This is what this government is doing for the kids in my electorate and their families. It is about providing the important foundations so that they can have the appropriate learning and development programs, most importantly throughout kindergarten and preschool and then moving on to primary and secondary school. We have seen a significant investment by this government and today we will make sure that we align the Children’s Services Act 1996 with the national quality framework to provide a consistent licensing framework for all Victorian early childhood education and care services. Again I take this opportunity to thank the hardworking early educators who really do support our kids every single day throughout every centre in my electorate of St Albans. You do a fantastic job. We are extremely proud of our kindergartens and also the service providers, in particular BPA, who have done an exceptional job in St Albans. I am extremely proud of the work that they do. In particular their embrace of language programs in kindergartens has been absolutely exciting for my electorate because we value languages, we value developmental programs and we value the sense of learning and making sure that those appropriate foundations are set very, very early on in their developmental stage. I commend the bill to the house.