The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) will work with the Thrive by Five campaign to help support children aged 0-5 years in reaching their full potential.
This comes after a major joint announcement by the New South Wales and Victorian governments ensuring access to five days of play-based learning in the year before school, introducing universal early learning for four-year-olds in both states. This includes a $5 billion early learning commitment by the NSW Government, and a $9 billion investment by the Victorian government.
RACP President and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small said working with Thrive by Five will be “a great opportunity to advocate for best-practice supports for children in the early years of life”.
“There is strong evidence that investment in the early years of a child’s life is the most cost-effective means of tackling long-term health conditions and health inequity. A strong system of universal early childhood education services ensures children can receive the best start they need,” Dr Small said.
“The RACP supports Thrive by Five’s call to the Federal Government to phase in paid parental leave for up to twelve months. The evidence shows that exclusive parental care fosters improved maternal and child health with improved developmental outcomes for the child.”
According to the 2021 Australian Early Development Census National Report, 22% of Australian children were assessed as developmentally vulnerable.
“Investing in the early years offers the possibility of shifting the pathway of a person’s health and social outcomes over the course of their life and disrupting cycles of disadvantage,” Dr Small said.
Thrive by Five’s key asks have strong alignment with the RACP Kids COVID Catch Up Campaign, which aims to support children to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we are advocating through our Kids Covid Catch Up Campaign, it is critical that Governments invest to provide universal access to quality early childhood education programs for all 3-year-olds as well,” Dr Small said.
“Providing access to quality early childhood education opportunities will support the development of children and set Australia up for an equitable and sustainable future in the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.:
Thrive by Five Director Jay Weatherill said the organisation is excited to work with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and commends their commitment to supporting children in maximising their potential both by endorsing the campaign, and through their existing advocacy.
“The RACP and its paediatricians have a strong history of advocating for quality early childhood education as a key building block for children’s development,” Weatherill said.
“This could not come at a better time, with the major announcement by the New South Wales and Victorian governments ensuring universal access to early learning in the year before school.”
Weatherill said the “net of opportunity for children has been cast wider and families will be reaping the benefits of this significant reform.”
“The early years are critical for lifelong learning and wellbeing. Positive health and developmental outcomes for children are crucial factors behind the importance of early learning reform,” Weatherill said.
“Early childhood education and care can give children the best start in life, which leads to better future health outcomes and opportunities for social participation that make up a fulfilling life all the way into adulthood.”
Weatherill said a partnership with the College will ensure that health and wellbeing become core aspects of Thrive by Five’s advocacy, and will provide an expert voice on issues pertaining to child health in the context of education.
This article originally appeared as a media release from the RACP.