Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 24 November 2016



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 24 November 2016

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Parliamentary Record 2


Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




pp 503 to 561


Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Thursday 24 November 2016 523 MOTION Note Statement Early Childhood Development Plan Continued from earlier this day. Mrs LAWLER (Education): Mr Deputy Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the statement on early childhood development by my colleague, the Minister for Children. As I mentioned in my opening statement to this parliament, one of the reasons I wanted to be part of this Labor government is because children are at the heart of its agenda. We understand that governments need to invest in early childhood development. As adults, we have a responsibility to give the next generation the very best possible start in life. Getting the right start in life is essential to for childrens later success. It shapes a childs ability to thrive at school, stay healthy and socially connected and contribute to society socially and economically. As the Minister for Children stated earlier, every dollar we invest in early childhood would yield an almost $8 return on investment for the broader community. The Member for Spillett debated that, but I argue that in the Territorys remote communities that figure would be higher. Dollars being spent on education makes for a great start for children in the early years. Dollars spent on early years in remote communities ensure a child who has a great start then goes on to employment and has a healthy, long life. I believe it would return even greater than an $8 yield in the long term. Not only is investing in the early years the right thing to do for our childrens futures, it will reduce the need for government spending in their later life and, over the long term, will reduce the need for government healthcare, incarceration and all the things that cost us in the Territory. As a mother and a grandmother I want the best possible future for my children and grandchildren, and for all children in this wonderfully diverse place, the Northern Territory. We all have a responsibility to do everything we can to harness the potential which exists in every young child. As a former preschool teacher and educator for over 30 years, I have seen firsthand the positive impact that quality early learning can have on an individuals life for their wellbeing and later success, whether that is undertaking future training, going to university, getting a job or raising a happy and healthy family. Early childhood is the period where we develop the basis of our cognitive skills, social wellbeing and competence, and physical and cognitive health. In her statement the Minister for Children talked about the high levels of vulnerability amongst young children in the Territory. Unfortunately too many Territory children grow up in households characterised by stress, violence and hunger. This environment compromises the childs development and long-term outcomes. The Member for Johnston, an Indigenous Territorian, discussed earlier today how chronic those issues are. Although some children in the Northern Territory are doing well, 37% of Territory children were identified as developmentally vulnerable at the start of their school lives from the Australian Early Development Census data. Children who are identified as developmentally vulnerable when they start school are much more likely to have difficulties in reading, numeracy and meeting national minimum standards. Although the 2013 Northern Territory NAPLAN results indicate that Territory children were performing below the national average, there have been improvements in a number of areas. Of particular note are improvements in the Year 3 results in reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation. I believe that can be, in part, attributed to an increasing level of participation in early learning programs. The programs we often talk about in this House include the Families as First Teachers program and the child and family centres. Hopefully this data shows that they are having an impact. Research has found a direct relationship between the quality of early childhood services, the amount of time children spend in them and the childrens intellectual and social development. Early childhood education and care services form a significant part of the universal service system that the Minister for Children referred to in her statement. Our education system strives to shape education outcomes from the start of a childs life. The majority of research into the benefits of attending preschool and early learning programs found that children who attend early years education gained higher literacy, numeracy, English and mathematic results. The more time children spend in preschool the greater the impact on their grades in English and maths. Children who had experienced high-quality preschool education were better at self-regulating and social behaviours and were less inclined to hyperactivity. Attendance at preschool increased educational

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