Advocacy is about speaking and acting out, or writing on behalf of individuals or groups to promote, protect and defend changing the system – that is legislation, policies and practices in ways that will benefit others. Advocacy is active; it involves doing something.
Early childhood professionals have an ethical obligation to promote shared aspirations amongst communities in order to enhance children’s health and wellbeing, advocate for the development and implementation of laws and policies that promote child-friendly communities, and to utilise knowledge and research to advocate for universal access to a range of high-quality early childhood programs for all children.
ECA Code of Ethics
The ECA Code of Ethics provides a framework to support advocacy on behalf of young children. The core principles in this Code of Ethics are based on the fundamental and prized values of the profession. They act to guide decision making in relation to ethical responsibilities. These core principles require a commitment to respect and maintain the rights and dignity of children, families, colleagues and communities.
In relation to communities, I will:
- Learn about local community contexts and aspirations in order to create responsive programs to enhance children’s learning, development and wellbeing
- Collaborate with people, services and agencies to develop shared understandings and actions that support children and families
- Use research and practice-based evidence to advocate for a society where all children have access to quality education and care
- Promote the value of children’s contribution as citizens to the development of strong communities
- Work to promote increased appreciation of the importance of childhood including how children learn and develop, in order to inform programs and systems of assessment that benefit children
- Advocate for the development and implementation of laws and policies that promote the rights and best interests of children and families.
In early childhood services
- Provide a quality experience for all young children you work with.
- ‘Ensure the dignity and rights of every child are maintained at all times’. (NQS Element 5.2.3).
- Work in partnership with parents and ‘help families access services’ (Gibbs, 2003, p.7) (NQS Quality Area 6).
- Work with the community to improve children’s developmental outcomes (NQS Quality Area 6).
- Continually look to improve your skills and knowledge to act in the best interests of children.
- In particular, develop your leadership capabilities as a professional.
In the public
- Always act ethically in advocating for young children.
- Promote child-friendly communities and advocate for universal access to a range of high-quality early childhood and school age care programs for all children (link to NQS Element 6.3.4).
- Join early childhood networks like Early Childhood Australiato keep informed and collaborate in shared advocacy. See how Early Childhood Australia advocates.
- Actively engage (respectfully) on social media, by sharing posts and keeping others informed.
- Participate and provide feedback to consultations with children’s interests in mind as paramount consideration.
- Engage with mainstream media e.g. through letters to the editor (Gibbs, 2003, 18).
- Participate and support campaigns for children’s rights and interests.
- Actively engage (respectfully) with local public and elected officials on children’s interests.
Having an awareness of current issues and trends in early childhood is an important part of advocacy. Networking and being ‘tuned in’ to up-to-date information and opinions is important. You can:
- Register for ECA news including WebWatch, and The Spoke ECA Blog, Policy and Advocacy
- Register to receive the ACECQA Newsletter
- Register for newsletters from the federal government and regulatory authorities, such as the Department of Education, Skills and Employment update emails
- Read transcripts of the Education and Employment Senate Estimates Committee hearings that take place three times each year
- Attend sector conferences, consultations and networking events
- Follow early childhood Ministers, providers, academics and commentators on social media.
If your advocacy involves inviting an MP to an early childhood education and care service (see below for links to MPs), these resources can help you prepare:
ECA advocacy materials
As part of its advocacy work, ECA develops resources, submissions and statements with members, the early childhood sector and related organisations. ECA publishes these on the ECA website. Some examples include:
How to talk about early childhood education and care’ resource
ECA developed this resource, ‘How to talk about early childhood education and care’ to promote the use of consistent, affirmative, inclusive and sector-accepted language about ECEC that supports the professionalism of the sector. This resource was developed with support from the Minderoo Foundation – Thrive by Five.
Working Together to Ensure Equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children in the Early Years
Early Childhood Australia and SNAICC—National Voice for our Children released a joint position paper calling on all governments to ensure all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children receive quality early learning and family support.
- Literature review of the impact of early childhood education and care on learning and development.
- Staff to Child Ratios and Educator Qualification Requirements of the National Quality Framework
- Putting a value on early childhood education and care in Australia.
The Federal Legislative Process
Contacting Members of Parliament
Advocacy can involve contacting a Member of Parliament to raise issues, discuss early childhood education and care and seek their support of high quality early learning for all children. The links below will help you to find your Federal or State/Territory Members of Parliament.
- Find your member of Federal Parliament.
- Find a member of the Parliament of New South Wales
- Find a member of the Parliament of Victoria
- Find a member of the Parliament of Queensland
- Find a member of the Parliament of Western Australia
- Find a member of the Parliament of Tasmania
- Find a member of the Parliament of South Australia
- Find a member of the Parliament of the Australian Capital Territory
- Find a member of the Parliament of the Northern Territory
Have your voice heard on issues that are important to the early childhood sector.
Early Learning Matters
Early Learning Matters Week is an annual event to raise awareness of the role of early childhood education and care in children’s development and wellbeing in Australia. High-quality education and care supports young children to learn and thrive, in cooperation with parents, carers and the wider community. Early Learning Matters Week was first staged in 2018, as part of the Early Learning: Everyone Benefits campaign, supported by a coalition of more than 20 early childhood service providers, peak bodies and research and advocacy groups.
Thrive by Five
Thrive by Five is an initiative of Minderoo Foundation that is campaigning to make Australia’s early learning childcare system high quality and universally accessible. Thrive by Five believes this to be the most significant educational, social and economic reform of our era.
The Smart Start campaign aims to educate Australia’s government and communities on the importance of quality early learning. The first five years sets a child up for school and life. The learning habits they develop in these critical years can last a lifetime.
The Big Steps campaign is run by United Voice and it is a campaign for professional pay for early childhood educators. Early childhood educators are paid a third less than those teaching and caring for children just a few years older. It is time for these wages to reflect the essential role we play in shaping the futures of Australian children.
Let’s make Australia the best place in the world to be a parent!
The Parenthood is leading this campaign calling for a National Parenting Strategy: a coordinated framework of policies that will deliver optimal outcomes – for children, parents, and the economy. The campaign includes a call for free and high quality early childhood education and care.
Advocacy organisations and groups
- Early Childhood Australia is the national peak body for early childhood.
- Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) is the national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children.
- Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) uses the best available evidence to help all children and young people in Australia to thrive.
- Australian Community Children’s Services (ACCS)advocates for the right of Australia’s children to access quality, not-for-profit, community children’s services
- Social Justice In Early Childhood (SIJEC) is a not for profit, politically active organisation working for social justice issues pertaining to the lives of children.
Further reading and resource
- Frances Press and Sandie Wong, 2013: A Voice for Young Children – 75 years of Early Childhood Australia
- Waniganayake, Cheeseman et al, Leadership: Contexts and complexities in Early Childhood Education (2nd Ed)
- The Everyday Learning Series title Children’s Rights: Every day and everywhere—Book 1
- The Everyday learning Series title Children’s Rights: Every day and everywhere—Book 2
- TheECA Code of Ethics and the Ethics in Action guidebook
- ECA Learning Hub webinar,Anti-bias approaches in early childhood by Dr Red Ruby Scarlet
- The Australian Human Rights Commission has developed a suite of online learning modules to help early childhood educators create responsive child-safe organisations. The modules are available on the ECA Learning Hub for new and current subscribers, or register for free here.
- Human Rights Commission and Early Childhood Australia. (2015). Supporting young children’s rights: Statement of intent (2015-2018) Canberra: ECA.
Become a member of ECA
ECA has enjoyed a long and celebrated history, commemorating 80 years of continuous advocacy for young children and those who educate and nurture them—work that has only been possible with the support of our members.
Membership of ECA ensures that you are kept informed of the latest practice, research and policy in the sector while also accessing exclusive benefits and discounts. Most importantly, you will be supporting ECA to be a voice for young children. Our membership encompasses service providers across a diversity of service types and governance structures (e.g. private, not-for-profit and public).
Members also benefit from our strong media profile and policy development capabilities, with opportunities to contribute to the national policy debate and demonstrate a commitment to building the capacity of the early childhood education sector more broadly. We also provide members, who wish to be involved, with the opportunity to participate in media stories. Learn more about becoming a member.