Early childhood education in Australia will have a voice in the highest place over the next few years, with the election of Tony Abbott as the country’s new Prime Minister.
Mr Abbott’s wife Margie, who is originally from New Zealand, is a former teacher and now runs a community not for profit early childhood centre in Sydney.
The centre employs 10 staff members and caters for around 100 families. It has allowed her to “have the enriching experience of caring for and educating children” and to “see great parents who love their children and are doing their best to provide them with every opportunity.” Mrs Abbott said in a speech at a business function last year.
It is likely that Mrs Abbott will have a quiet word in the ear of her husband about the causes she is passionate about – early childhood education and protecting children from harm.
In the speech, Mrs Abbott spoke about how she had no desire to get involved in political debates, but she did want to add her voice to the debate about things she believed in.
Among those were the support of learning for young children and protecting children.
“The opportunity to add my voice in support of learning for under-fives is my greatest interest. Acknowledging the significant brain development that occurs in the first 3 years of a child’s life and how the lifelong impact of a child’s early experiences have in shaping the brain,” she said in the speech.
“When we talk of experiences they can be as simple as holding a child, talking with a child, reading to a child, sharing your time with a child. Recognising the importance and acknowledging the commitment of all who work in early childhood education is an area that we have made some gains in over the last 10 years but there is so much more that can be done.”
She spoke about how the work of a stay at home mother is often seen as ordinary, but said “raising children, encouraging your spouse, caring for loved ones, enjoying your work and contributing to your community, is never just ordinary – it’s central to who we are as individuals and as members of our community.”
Mrs Abbott also spoke of her desire to advocate for those working with children at risk from neglect or abuse.
“Given the opportunity, I do want to be a champion for children at risk in our country and to support the fine work of so many groups involved in watching out for and helping our children,” she said.
“I have recently had the opportunity to visit the Child Protection Society of Victoria to see the wonderful work that they’re doing with children at risk of abuse or neglect. To view first hand their work with families and particularly children who are living on the margins of our society I found both personally and professionally inspiring. Whilst abuse of children in whatever form occurs – no community, no society can ever rest on their laurels."
Mr Abbott takes up the role of Australian Prime Minister after leading a Liberal/National coalition to victory against Kevin Rudd’s Labor party in the election this week.
Mrs Abbott is originally from the Hutt Valley but has lived in Australia with her husband for the past 30 years. The couple have three grown up daughters.