A new early childhood development system for Australia

A new early childhood development system for Australia

Jay Weatherill

In this webinar, Jay Weatherill discussed the opportunities for system reform in early childhood development post Covid-19.

Families in focus webinar logo

This webinar was held on Tuesday 30 June. Please post your questions below.

Read audio transcript

Though there is need for ongoing vigilance, Australia is showing great resilience in the face of COVID-19. The immediate task of surviving this health crisis is itself ferociously challenging but there is a second, nation-defining task that cannot be ignored: how to build back better. This is a test not only of management, but of imagination.

This should start with early childhood development. Around 90% of a person’s lifelong brain development occurs in the first five years. A more effective system of early childhood development impacts the trajectory of so many important areas of policy: education, health, workforce participation, economic productivity. Reimagining this system is a challenge uniquely suited to the post COVID nation build.

To contemplate reform to such a complex area of public policy, systems change is preferred to a gradual, sequential approach. Early childhood policy makers, academic experts and professionals have a strong sense of the characteristics of best practice in the early childhood development system.

We need to deliver universal access to child care and preschool. We need to improve the standards of our centres, 20% of which fall below national standards. We need an integrated service delivery, so parents can access those services they need in one place. The centres need to be community-led, as we acknowledge the importance of place. And we need our early childhood system to be connected to the education system, to ensure accountability and a smooth transition to the next stage of a person’s development.

If we want our children to be strong, capable, independent, curious, imaginative: we must invest in the early years. If we want our children to lead the world in literacy and numeracy: we must invest in the early years. If we want to prepare our children today to contribute to improved national productivity tomorrow: we must invest in the early years. We must invest in the early years, for the future of our nation.

Back to the Families in Focus series page.

About the presenters

Jay Weatherill

Chief Executive Officer, Thrive by Five, Minderoo Foundation

Jay Weatherill is the new CEO of Thrive by Five, responsible for delivering Minderoo’s early childhood agenda. Jay was Premier of South Australia for six and a half years and Minister for 16 years in portfolios including early childhood. He holds law and economics degrees from the University of Adelaide.


He is as Industry Professor at the University of South Australia, an Ambassador for Reggio Children and chairs an early childhood research project for Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY).

Comments and questions

AIFS news

Get the latest news about our publications, research and upcoming events.