Federal Budget 2024-25: Progress on Early Childhood Wages but not Activity Test

The Front Project is encouraged by the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to help fund a wage increase for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) educators.

Lifting wages is a critical step to strengthening the workforce and delivering high quality education and care for children.

Community sentiment is clear, as the Front Project 2023 research shows, 79% of surveyed parents and guardians want to see improved wages and working conditions for ECEC professionals. We look forward to seeing the processes at the Fair Work Commission reach a resolution and ensure ECEC professionals receive their long-awaited wage increase.

A striking absence from the budget is the unchanged Activity Test, which continues to have a detrimental effect on limiting families’ access to ECEC. Abolishing or reviewing the activity test remains one of the single biggest levers to boost equity in the system and would enable around 126,000 children experiencing disadvantage to access the life-long benefits of quality ECEC.

Amid rising cost-of-living pressures, we support the budget commitment to establish a Commonwealth Prac Payment for student teacher placements starting July 2025. This is an important and practical step that will support emerging early childhood teachers to undertake their placements, reducing financial pressures during mandatory unpaid placements.

The Front Project CEO, Dr Caroline Croser-Barlow is cautiously optimistic “while it’s encouraging to see some steps taken towards a wage increase for hardworking educators, we look forward to it coming to fruition. There is significant opportunity to embrace widespread and impactful reform but foundational to this is the wage increase and abolishing the activity test.

“The $98.4 million funding to help child care services increase their capacity to support inclusion of children with additional needs is a step in the right direction, and the $110 million to improve early childhood education outcomes of First Nations children and students.