Aboriginal educators unhappy with federal childcare reforms

GOING NORTH: Courtney Glazebrook and Paige Debenham with an artwork to be raffled to assist disadvantaged Indigenous children in the NT.
GOING NORTH: Courtney Glazebrook and Paige Debenham with an artwork to be raffled to assist disadvantaged Indigenous children in the NT.

FEDERAL childcare reforms due to begin in early July have angered local Aboriginal educators, who say the changes will take away the basic right to self-determination and violate cultural safety.

Under the new childcare package, Aboriginal education facilities such as Bathurst’s Towri Macs will move into mainstream funding models, which educators believe is not in the best interests of the children.

Towri Macs director Courtney Glazebrook said the policy takes away self-determination as an Indigenous service and has the potential to devastate families that use the service. 

Responding to the claim, federal Member for Calare Andrew Gee said while no concerns about the childcare reform package had been raised with him, his door was “always open”.

He also offered to organise a meeting with the Minister for Education “so he can hear any concerns first-hand”.

Ms Glazebrook welcomed that opportunity, saying the reform package potentially denies children equal access to education.

“Our children’s voices are silenced in this policy and we are facing many barriers, including the violation of our cultural safety,” she said.

Under the new structure, each family will be entitled to different amounts of subsided care, which may reduce the number of days the children are able to attend (depending on work or study).

Ms Glazebrook said this means some children who come to Towri Macs for three days may have to drop to one day if their parents do not meet the activity test.

“It is a basic right of all children to be able to access high quality care and education,” she said.

“I feel this subsidy is creating social inequality amongst the community. If the government was serious about breaking intergenerational disempowerment and unemployment of Indigenous people, then the children must have equal early access to culturally safe learning environments in the years prior to them starting formal schooling.”

As part of research into how the new funding model will affect Indigenous children, Ms Glazebrook and Paige Debenham, who also works at Towri, will travel to the Northern Territory next month to visit other Indigenous education centres and document their concerns about the childcare reforms.

“Our goal will be to have discussions about strategies to ensure their services do not get lost in the mainstream funding model,” Ms Glazebrook said. 

As the areas they will be visiting are among the most disadvantaged in Australia, the women are fundraising to purchase items for the children living there. Raffle tickets in an Aboriginal artwork are available at $2 a ticket from Towri. They are also seeking donations of women’s hygiene products, and good quality clean clothing, which can also be left at Towri.