There are many advocates that have been a strong, loud voice for the sector for many years. As this determined group gets older, there was some concern about what will happen after they’ve gone. But after meeting a handful of the new wave of passionate young advocates putting early education on top of the agenda, it’s pretty clear we needn’t worry: the kids are alright.

(This article first appeared in Rattler 111, published by Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW). To purchase a copy, go to:

Rebecca Boland, Director, Clarence Town PreschoolRebecca-Boland

I began working in early childhood education soon after completing my Bachelor of Education in 1994. My career has given me many opportunities, including work as a teacher, director and tertiary educator.

My first deliberate steps in advocacy came when I began to feel frustrated and disheartened by the lack of passion and skill that I was seeing in many relief educators that I worked with. I accepted a role in adult education, with the goal of encouraging new graduates to see the amazing potential that the early childhood years hold. My message was simple: young children deserve the very best that we can be. After several years of this, I felt that I needed to return to teaching so I could practice the very skills I was encouraging in others.

Advocacy in early childhood exists on a number of levels. At times we come together as a profession to provide a shared voice for the big issues. In the current climate, this includes ensuring the NQF continues to support high quality outcomes for all children, funding across all early childhood services and Australia’s commitment to its children’s future.

For each of us, there is also the day-to-day advocacy that we engage in for our own services and communities: supporting families in their parenting roles; helping communities understand the need for high quality programs; sharing children’s right for quality play-based programs facilitated by qualified educators; ensuring that all children in our community are able to access quality education and care.

Advocacy is not hard to do: know what you are passionate about; engage in professional reading and networking to increase your knowledge; be prepared to speak out about what you believe in. And never, ever forget why you chose to enter this profession.


Carla_YeatesCarla Yeates, currently on maternity leave, and volunteer president of Occasional Child Care Australia

I started in early childhood education in 2001 as an untrained assistant in a long day care service for UnitingCare Children’s Services. During my seven years at UnitingCare, I completed my certificate III and diploma in children’s services, becoming director of several long day care services. In 2009, I became the director of Kidsnest Occasional Child Care, completing my Bachelor in Teaching (Early Childhood).

Since starting in early childhood education, I have been passionate about the sector and believe early childhood education is an important part in a child’s development, and for families who don’t have a support network.

When I started as director at Kidsnest, I didn’t really have an idea on how occasional care operated—my whole career and training was in LDC environments—and during my research on how occasional care operated under the regulations, I was introduced to Occasional Child Care Australia. This year, after a few years of sitting on the committee and working with other service directors, I became president.

Currently, I conduct my advocacy through OCCA, where I am able to advocate for the rights of children in occasional care to have the same quality education and care as children who attend long day care, family day care and preschools. I do this is by communicating with services, families, and state and federal government, via letters and face-to-face meetings, to express our concerns and issues that effect occasional care services.

My top three concerns for the sector:

  1. Quality early education for all children.
  2. NQF being implemented for children not by service type.
  3. Flexible early education and care for families.


Liam-McNicholasLiam McNicholas, ACT Manager, Goodstart Early Learning, and freelance writer

I have worked in the Canberra early childhood education and care sector for nearly 11 years as a teacher, centre director and area manager. I also managed the ACT Inclusion Support Agency.

I first became involved with advocacy through the (United Voice) Big Steps campaign, and through that have come to focus my advocacy on children’s rights and the recognition of the potential of early childhood education to ensure every child has the right to do or be anything in our society, regardless of their background.

I write regularly at my blog ( and engage in discussion and debate on social media, particularly Twitter (follow me @liammcnicholas). I believe that advocacy should be focused and political, and be based on a contest of ideas and not people. I’m also a member of Early Childhood Australia and attend local early childhood networks and events, and regularly write to politicians.

My top three concerns for the sector are:

  1. Lack of unity: we do not present a single vision for what we want the sector to be.
  2. Lack of professional recognition: the role of an early childhood teacher or educator is not viewed as important, which means we do not attract the best people to do this critical work.
  3. The fight for the NQF: there is a real possibility that the NQF reforms may be scaled back or frozen. This would be a terrible outcome for children.


Amanda-ArcherAmanda Archer, Quality Assurance, Policy and Business Development Manager, Sutherland Shire Council

After completing university, I gained experience in primary schools before moving to early education as a casual teacher. I have worked as a director, project officer and child care services manager before my current role at Sutherland Shire Council.

I became an advocate through attendance at Australian Community Children Services (ACCS) NSW meetings. I was invited to apply for the executive board in 2011 and they have guided and supported me in my development as an advocate.

I conduct advocacy through being involved and up to date. I take any opportunity to learn and keep abreast of discussions and information supplied in the political field and to the public. Through ACCS NSW, I have also met with and written letters to ministers to promote change, and participated in submissions. I believe that advocacy starts in your backyard, through standing up for and educating others on quality education, not backing down from your values. The more people who promote and educate for our profession, the greater chance of change.

The top three threats I see to early and middle education and care in Australia are:

  1. NQF: there is a real threat to the NQF with the current review being undertaken, with the main worry being a reduction in requirements that ensure quality for our children.
  2. Funding: from overall shortages that result in lack of affordability and accessibility for families, to the shadow surrounding preschool funding and extending through to the cessation of Community Support Program funding.
  3. Gaps in quality: from ambiguous regulations allowing for quality to be compromised, to the severely inconsistent NQS results and the widening gaps in relation to the training and approach of assessment and compliance officers.


marian_rakosiMarian Rakosi, Educator, early years, Owl’s House, UNSW

I began my #ozearlyed [favourite Twitter hashtag!] career in the preschool room at Meadowbank TAFE Children’s Centre. One year in and a union organiser, Doumuoa Howcher, walked into my centre, agitating me around the big picture issues in our sector, namely the fact that our profession had been historically undervalued and underpaid as ‘women’s work’. She gave me hope that, as a collective, we could put early education on the political agenda and have a seat at the table when governments made decisions regarding us and our profession. So, in April 2011, I joined my union, United Voice. This was the beginning of my steep political learning curve and it opened many doors of opportunity.

The first thing I did—and what I continue to do—was ask questions. We know which laws and legislation impact our work but by who and when is that decided? And, more importantly, how can we influence those decisions? The second thing I did was subscribe to key ECEC publications and discuss them with colleagues and in online forums, such as the Social Justice in Early Childhood Facebook page. The third thing was to speak to the decision makers—politicians. I found the best way is to do this via Twitter (follow me @MarianRakosi). I’m also working on an educator’s guide to Twitter, so keep an eye out for it!

My long-term vision for early childhood education and care is threefold:

  1. For every child in Australia to have access to quality early childhood education.
  2. For educators to be respected and paid as professionals.
  3. For the sector to have a seat at the government decision-making table. I believe that we are on the path to achieving this but how far and fast we move is up to us.


Brigitte_MitchellBrigitte Mitchell, Teacher and Team Leader, Boundary Lane Children’s Centre, University of Sydney

I’ve worked in early childhood education and care since 1998, as a trainee educator on my gap year prior to studying performing arts. The work experience inspired me to change course and study for a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood). My work has primarily been full time long day care since graduating.

I came across the ‘Teachers are Teachers’ and Big Steps ‘Quality Matters’ campaigns in the last few years. I wanted to make it known, at a systems level, that a more equitable education sector has to exist. So I quickly put my name down to participate in some of their action days. I then became more of an advocate for children and an active member of our unions with many other educators.

My advocacy involves meeting with educators in person—as part of the NSW and national Big Steps Quality Matters convening groups—and via email, Big Step’s Facebook page and Twitter education forums and communities.

When I meet with other educators, we plan actions or meetings to ask questions and create networks with ECEC community stakeholders. I also share articles and petitions on ECEC issues via social media, attend rallies with ECEC posters, submit questions to ABC’s Q&A program—in person or via Twitter—and occasionally speak to media on issues affecting the sector.

My top three concerns for the sector:

  1. The growth of large for-profit chain providers that may lead to an ABC Learning Centres situation, where children aren’t the priority.
  2. The uncertainty of elements of the NQF being watered down when Australia’s OECD ranking for ECEC is much lower than our New Zealand neighbours.
  3. Not enough new funds are being directed to funding to achieve high standards, access, affordability and stability, and these will start with subsidising educator wages and conditions.


* Opening shot courtesy Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) archive.

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