Labor has today demanded Tony Abbott guarantee that children and families who rely on Budget Based Funded (BBF) Program services will not be worse off under their child care changes, after funding cuts forced the closure of three early education centres in remote central Australia.

Communities in Harts Range, Yuelamu and Nyirripi are now without access to early childhood education and care services.

With early education playing such a vital role in children’s development, this is a huge step backwards and completely contradicts the Closing the Gap target of ensuring all Indigenous four year olds in remote communities have access to early childhood education.

Despite the Government promising that families would be better off under their child care changes, there are now massive question marks over the fate of approximately 340 early education and care services funded under the BBF Program, with the Government failing to release any detail on how these groups will be protected.

80 per cent of services funded under the BBF Program have an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander focus and 35 per cent of these services are in the Northern Territory. Services funded under this program include Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service, mobile services, playgroups, nutrition and parenting programs, Outside School Hours Care, and creches.

“This is a frightening start to the Government’s child care changes, and a sharp warning that the Government’s promise that families would be better off is looking like nothing but hollow words,” said the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood, Kate Ellis.

“It is very concerning that the children who are set to benefit the most from investment in early education have been the first ones shut out of the system, and the Government not only needs to address this situation immediately but must also guarantee that no vulnerable or disadvantaged children will be left worse off because their child care changes,” said Ms Ellis.

“This will have the biggest impact on the most vulnerable children. We know that getting children into quality early education as early as possible is vital to improving outcomes in remote communities,” said the local member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon.

“This year’s Closing the Gap report showed that fewer four year olds in remote communities were enrolled in early education programs, and that we did not meet our target to ensure access to early education for Indigenous children. We need more support for early education in remote communities, not closures and uncertainty,” said Mr Snowdon.