March 20th, 2024




20 March 2024 – Families and children’s advocates have today launched a draft bill which would guarantee $10-a-day childcare and preschool, 52 weeks’ paid parental leave shared between partners, and a minimum of 10 child and maternal health checks.

Under the proposed law, three days per week of early learning would be guaranteed for all children aged five and under, capped at $10 per day, and free for low-income families.

The draft bill is an initiative of Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five campaign and was launched in Canberra alongside independent MP Zoe Daniel and representatives of The Parenthood, Children and Young People with Disability Australia and Welcoming Australia.

Thrive by Five’s Jay Weatherill said the group was calling for feedback on the draft bill and MPs to co-sponsor it.

“We are calling on politicians from all sides to be part of history by making early childhood education a universal right in Australia, just as Medicare made healthcare a universal right,” Mr Weatherill said.

“This is smart policy that would deliver on multiple fronts: it would ease cost-of-living pressures for families, it would ease workforce shortages and boost productivity, and most importantly it would enable all Australian children to thrive by five.”

Mr Weatherill said national legislation was needed to bring governments and different parts of the early childhood system together to work as one.

“We have seen some positive reforms in recent years, such as an increase in the federal childcare subsidy, the plan to increase paid parental leave to 26 weeks by 2026, and the introduction of free preschool in NSW and Victoria.

“But without a national framework and a legislated guarantee, we risk taking a piecemeal, short-term approach, where positive reforms can be undone as governments change.

“This law would enshrine the universal rights of all Australian families and children, and act as a roadmap for long-term, durable and coordinated reform of the whole early childhood sector.”

The draft bill proposes the creation of a national Early Childhood Development Commission to work with federal, state and territory governments to implement the reforms over 10 years.

“The evidence shows the first five years of life are absolutely crucial for social and cognitive development, and high-quality early learning experiences not only set children up to do well at school, they also have life-long positive impacts,” Mr Weatherill said.

“But too many Australian children today are not able to attend childcare and preschool because their parents cannot afford it, or they cannot get a place close to home.

“Many families say the cost of early learning is akin to that of a second mortgage. Others are turned away from their local childcare centre or preschool because the waitlist is astronomically long.

“We would never stand for that happening with primary or secondary education – early years education should be no different.”

The cost and inaccessibility of childcare is the main factor keeping parents – usually mothers – out of the workforce for longer than they would like.

A 2023 poll conducted by Essential Research for The Parenthood found six in ten parents said they or their partner would work different hours if childcare was not so expensive.

A $10-a-day model has successfully been implemented in other parts of the world, including Quebec in Canada.

Mr Weatherill said more affordable and accessible early learning would deliver for children, parents, employers, the economy and society as a whole.

“We encourage all Members of Parliament to come on board and co-sponsor this historic piece of legislation that will make a long-lasting difference in the lives of Australian children and families.”


Georgie Dent, CEO, The Parenthood

“Adequate paid parental leave and totally affordable, quality early childhood education and care are critical social infrastructure that every person should be entitled to, just like primary and tertiary education, superannuation or Medicare.

“It’s great to see politicians recognising this and getting behind the need to legislate universal access to early learning and 52 weeks paid parental leave.”

Ashleigh Keating, Lived Experience Advocate, Children and Young People with DIsability Australia

“Guaranteed access to inclusive and accessible early learning education and care will significantly benefit all children including those with a disability. We need a national framework that brings systems together.

“Being autistic myself, I know for those like me we need to be in neurodiverse affirming practices that give us those much-needed ordinary childhood experiences to thrive and grow. We don’t want to be “fixed” but supported to grow, discover and play.

“When children with disability are included in their local communities, with others their age, it benefits everyone. This right must come with reasonable adjustments so that children are supported to learn and develop.”

Brad Chilcott AM, Founder, Welcoming Australia

“Families from migrant and refugee backgrounds face the same economic and systemic barriers to receiving the educational and other support their children need to thrive as every other Australian – and so many additional barriers due to the complexity of the system, lack of cultural awareness and disproportionate levels of economic and employment insecurity.

“Legislating an early years guarantee that simplifies the payment system and makes access to quality early learning truly universal would go a long way to advancing our vision of an Australia where everyone has equal opportunity to belong, contribute and thrive.”