Bendigo’s three Labor MPs – Lisa Chesters, Jacinta Allan and Maree Edwards – are rallying to save Labor’s universal access program which gives every child in Australia 15 hours per week of preschool or kindergarten education in the year before they start school.

Today Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, was joined by her state colleague, Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards, at White Hills Kindergarten in Bendigo to support the 15 Hour Best Start campaign. 

“In 2009 Labor set the goal to make sure every preschool child would get 15 hours of quality early childhood education every week. We are on track to achieve that goal. However the Abbott Government is threatening to derail this successful program with their refusal to guarantee funding for preschools and kindergartens in the coming Budget,” said Ms Chesters. 

Ms Chesters, who has visited several kindergartens in and around Bendigo in recent weeks, said parents and services were understandably anxious about any cuts to funding. 

“It has been a delight seeing first-hand the positive impact of quality early childhood education. The children have been falling over each other to tell me what they love about their kindy and to show me their paintings and projects.  When I talk to parents there is disbelief that the Government would even consider cutting such a successful program. 

“The centre staff and managers are very anxious that if funding is discontinued, they will have no choice but to put the cost back on parents, many of whom will be forced to take their children out. 

“Ultimately it is the children who will miss out and once again with this Government, it will be felt hardest by those who can least afford it. We know that quality early childhood education gives children the best start in life so it seems cruel and inexplicable the Abbott Government would take it away,” said Ms Chesters. 

“Here in Victoria, thanks to Labor’s universal access program,  the proportion of children attending preschool who are enrolled in a program for more than 15 hours a week has increased from just 7 per cent in 2008, to 83 per cent in 2013,” said Ms Allan. 

“This is an incredibly successful program. We have achieved so much and we can’t give up now,” said Ms Edwards.