The federal and state governments have been urged to legally guarantee access to at least two years of preschool.
More than 50 groups and individuals have signed an open letter ahead of a national early years summit in Canberra on Thursday.
“It has been clear for many years that the siloed and fractured approach to early years development is letting Australian children and families down,” said one of the signatories, Thrive by Five director, Jay Weatherill.
“With the early years summit and the development of a national early years strategy, we can reshape the early years for future Australian children and through them, secure our nation’s future.”
Nationally, there is funded access for four-year-olds and in some states that access is being extended to three year olds.
But the advocates say it should be available to three year olds across the country.
The signatories have also called for a guarantee of comprehensive family support, including playgroups and inclusive community-based disability support; community-controlled, culturally appropriate services for Indigenous Australians; and access to infant and maternal health care.
The guarantee would be overseen by a new commonwealth-state early childhood body.
“All Australian children deserve the best start in life and it’s up to us to make that happen,” the letter says.
The issue of early childhood education and care is being examined by the Productivity Commission, with a report due to be handed to the federal government in mid-2024.
The inquiry is considering cost and availability barriers and ways to support better outcomes for children and families.
Early Childhood Education Minister Anne Aly admitted the system needed reform as it was a “mixed model” across the states and territories.
“These are all issues the Productivity Commission review will look into (and) that will give us good insights into how we can look at reforming the system,” she told Sky News on Tuesday.
Childcare subsidy rates are due to increase from July, under a plan Labor took to the election.
Asked whether the move could add to inflation and should be delayed, Dr Aly said it would not, because it would improve productivity in the workforce.
She said relief for families was an election commitment and the childcare changes were “a centrepiece” of that.
(Australian Associated Press)