Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak on the Children’s Services Amendment Bill 2011, and I firstly say that the bill before the house is an important bill. It amends the Children’s Services Act 1996 to facilitate a smooth and efficient changeover for children’s services to operate under the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010. It will reduce the regulatory burden to make plain that each children’s service is subject either to national law or the Victorian children’s services legislation and not to two regulatory systems.
I think all members of the house would agree that the first few years of a child’s life are absolutely crucial to their development. Research certainly suggests that much of a child’s early years entails learning about oneself, so it is important that we have an effective and streamlined child-care system. We currently have 4100 children’s services in Victoria, and this legislation will allow these centres to operate more easily and smoothly.
I draw the attention of the house to some of the facilities with which I have had direct contact. The first is Try Australia, which runs 30-plus children’s centres.
It operates right across the board, offering early learning, kindergarten, child-care and after-care services. I am sure that Try Australia, being a not-for-profit organisation, would welcome this legislation as it would any reduction in costs or ways of making the regulatory burden on such organisations easier.
Victoria has played a very important role in developing the national law. We have heard, and I also make the comment, that both sides of the house have been instrumental in this development. Victoria is at the forefront when it comes to children’s services. Firstly, there are higher staff-to-child ratios, particularly in the under-three age range, in recognition that younger children need more intensive care, and, secondly, we lead the way in terms of the qualifications of staff responsible for caring for our young people.
In 2009 children’s services legislation was introduced to require minimum training for all staff to support the capacity of children’s services to provide quality education and care. Child care is very important to my constituents in Caulfield, many of whom choose the best available child care. They welcome, as does the coalition, the work that has been done to ensure that we streamline things and make it easier for many child-care centres and children’s services operations to work effectively, efficiently and in the best possible way they can. This bill ties the Victorian children’s legislation in with the national law, ensuring that in relation to Victorian children’s services the national law fits in with the Victorian law and duplication and the regulatory burden are reduced. I commend the bill to the house.