Ms Savage said Professor Joseph Sparling from the University of North Carolina this week told the Melbourne Graduate School of Education the first three years of a child’s life were the critical time for early learning.
“Professor Sparling told the audience that based on 30 years of evidence, it was simply too late to wait until a disadvantaged child started school before taking any action and that to do so amounted to neglect,” Ms Savage said.
Ms Savage said as part of its recently announced Growing Children Well direction statement, Labor committed to appointing a Minister for Early Childhood, developing a comprehensive early childhood plan and supporting high quality early intervention services.
“Other states and countries are increasingly investing in programs that provide intensive visits to at-risk babies and mothers by child health nurses,” she said.
“These occur weekly and fortnightly during pregnancy then until the child is aged two and longer if necessary.
“These programs have significantly improved outcomes for children and have created long term cost savings for the community.
“Despite being voluntary, they were proven to be the most successful way to reach the people most disaffected with and distrustful of services. This is the best way to break the cycle of disadvantage, one child at a time.”
Ms Savage said despite the overwhelming evidence, the Barnett Government had failed to articulate a policy for early childhood.
“The Barnett Government’s Early Years Collaborative Project Team was due to report in August 2011, but we are still waiting to see any outcomes,” she said.
“The Barnett Government must release the report and an early years framework immediately and act now to ensure WA children get the best possible start in life.”