Education and Early Childhood Development

I’m a passionate advocate for early childhood development. As a nation, I believe we need to apply resources to initiatives we know will achieve game-changing results for children and the communities in which they belong.

The research speaks for itself – we know that a child’s brain doubles in size in its first year and reaches 90 percent of its full size by the age of five.

This policy space is currently split across different levels of government, a range of community, health and social service organisations. If we’re going to tackle this issue, we need to better coordinate our approach to the health and wellbeing of young Australians.

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Early Childhood Development

I’m a believer in the importance of early childhood development and early intervention. As the Chair of The Senate Education and Employment References Committee, I’ve delved into critical issues plaguing our education system.

School refusal and childhood anxiety emerged as pressing challenges, highlighted by the committee’s recent report. The lack of a nationally agreed upon definition for school refusal underscores the urgency for comprehensive research. COVID-19 disruptions have exacerbated the issue, with prolonged non-attendance affecting students’ learning.

We must establish a clear definition to guide evidence-based interventions. That’s why the committee recommended tasking the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) with further research. My commitment lies in ensuring every child has access to quality education despite the hurdles presented by school refusal and childhood anxiety.

"Fostering and investing in resilience targeted initiatives for young people is critical to prepare them for the rapidly changing world in which we live"

Early Learning in Communities

Every child no matter where they live deserves to have access to world-class education. However, early learning and preschool participation remains low, mostly in disadvantaged communities where children can benefit most.

Throughout my career, I’ve fought to improve the lives of family and children in regional areas.

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STEM Early learning

Over 90 per cent of brain growth occurs by the age of five, which means that these first years are some of the most fundamental and formative of a child’s life. It’s a vital stage of life for children to begin exploring and understanding the natural world around them.

ELSA apps are digital play-based learning which encourages children to explore science technology, engineering and mathematics in a fun and interactive way before they even reach the classroom.

The ELSA Pilot commenced in 2018 and is continuing to be rolled out across Australia. There are more than 100 preschool services currently taking part in the initiative.