There is clear evidence to show that access to quality early childhood education improves a child's academic performance and provides essential social skills that serve our kids for a lifetime.

A recent study puts the academic advantage at a half to a full year of additional learning in reading and mathematics.

Yet when it comes to preschool attendance New South Wales lags far behind other States, with the lowest participation levels and the highest fees in the country.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently revealed that in New South Wales one in three kids aged four and five miss out on the 15 hours per week of preschool recommended by the Commonwealth Government.

It is not good enough.    


Parents in my electorate pay upwards of $120 a day for child care, which is simply unaffordable and out of reach for many parents.

The extraordinary expense of child care forces parents—and, let us be honest, it is mostly mothers—into hard choices about work and employment options.

Lauren Sarti is a single mum raising three-year-old twins in Dulwich Hill.

She would like to return to full-time work but has not been able to because the high cost of day care meant it was not worth her while.

Financially, she was going backwards.

She made a courageous decision to go back to school and do a Master of Laws, but she is now left juggling child care and her studies with few options for financial support.    


It is not good enough that, just to get by, women like Lauren are forced to make hard choices including reducing the number of days their kids are in care.

Finding child care remains one of the most stressful pressures facing young parents in my electorate and throughout the inner west of Sydney.


Marrickville Council provides child care at seven centres across the area and the demand for places is extremely high with well over 2,000 families on the waiting list.

Research conducted by the council in 2011-12 showed that each of its child care centres is operating at full capacity with very little room for growth at the existing centres.

To meet this challenge, Marrickville Council has thought strategically. I am proud of the decision it took last year to invest more than $3 million to build a new child care centre at Steel Park in South Marrickville.    

The centre will offer an extra 60 places, which is a great start. It will help to relieve some of the pressure on the council's waiting list. But this is before we take into account the rapid growth planned by the Government for the area, such as the thousands of apartments planned along the Sydenham to Bankstown line and along Parramatta Road.    


When it comes to investing in early learning we cannot leave it to local councils to do the hard work, nor should we expect parents to pick up the bill for government inaction.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reported in March, the Baird Government has underspent its early childhood education budget by $100 million this financial year.

That is in addition to deep cuts by the Federal Liberal Government, which pulled preschool funding for three-year-olds and limited funding for four-year-olds. In the same Sydney Morning Herald article Lisa Bryant, an early childhood consultant, is quoted as saying:    

What it comes down to is a simple equation ... the NSW Government does not spend as much, that translates to higher fees, which then translates to lower attendance.    

It is clear that we simply have to invest more to get our kids into preschool.

The Leader of the Opposition announced earlier this year that a Foley Government will do just that. Labor will guarantee 15-hours preschool a week for every child in New South Wales in the year before they start school. That important commitment will have a real and lasting impact on parents and children well into the future.    


I recently had the privilege of visiting the Goodstart Early Learning Centre at Marrickville with the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, and member for Port Stephens, Ms Kate Washington.

The centre is run by a wonderful woman, Sarah Benjamin, and is located on the grounds of Marrickville Public School in a beautiful heritage building.

The centre has multiple learning spaces and each staff member brings their own interests and talents to their work.

I was inspired by the centre's highly-developed art program, with the children being encouraged to explore their blossoming creativity through painting, drawing and craft.

The member for Port Stephens and I saw passionate educators at work and happy, engaged, contented children.

If that is not worth investing in, I do not know what is.