17 September 2014

Concern expressed about the abolition of the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation and Tasmanian Community Fund

The SDOHAN Advisory Group determined it appropriate that we write to the Premier about the recently proposed abolition of the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation and Tasmanian Community Fund Boards. You will find a copy of the letter’s content below. 

8th September 2014

The Honourable Will Hodgman
Premier of Tasmania
Tasmanian Government
GPO Box 123

Dear Premier

Abolition of Tasmanian Early Years Foundation and Tasmanian Community Fund

We write to express concern about the planned abolition of the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation and Tasmanian Community Fund Boards. Particularly in relation to the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation it appears as though the Foundation itself will cease to exist. While we understand that the Tasmanian Community Fund will still exist in some form but with a different decision-making body, we are concerned that it will not be truly autonomous from Government decision-making processes. We are writing to seek clarity on these matters, to ask you what will replace these organisations, and how you will ensure that the visions and missions of the organisations will not be lost within the Government system. 

Early childhood is a crucial developmental period. Children who have a good start in life not only have healthier and happier childhoods, but also enjoy far-reaching beneficial effects in adulthood.

There is significant evidence in Tasmania that many children do not experience optimal early life conditions (e.g. 16% of children under 15 years live in poverty, 48% of children in Tasmania are in the bottom child social exclusion quintile, in the last 10 years the number of child protection notifications involving children under 5 years has more than doubled (NATSEM 2013 and Kids Come First 2013)), and this is why the work of the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation is so important.

What could be more important than giving every Tasmanian child the best possible start in life as a foundation for a healthy, happy and positive future? This is the vision of the Foundation.

The Foundation has provided many opportunities, in partnership with the Tasmanian community, to support children and their families, and raise awareness and a commitment to the early years of childhood. The Foundation has worked collaboratively to maximise the potential of Child and Family Centres, and much work has been done to support organisations and workers at the coal-face to develop and implement quality, evidence-informed program and initiatives.

We would like to express our deep disappointment at the Government’s proposed abolition of the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation and ask that you please explain to us why this decision has been made. Is this really going to save significant amount of money? Surely the health and wellbeing of our children is more important? And isn’t it vital that we have a prominent organisation that sits outside of Government to champion the needs of children in early life?

In respect of the Tasmanian Community Fund Board, again we wish to express our concern at your announcement of its cessation. Many organisations depend on the Tasmanian Community Fund to develop programs and build capacity. We believe it is important that grant programs such as this should operate at arms-length from Government. Can you please clarify for us on what basis this decision has been made?

We are also concerned that there appears to have been no consultation with key stakeholders, or the community at large about these decisions. As a result of this, we are writing this letter and would greatly appreciate your response to these matters.

Kind regards

Miriam Herzfeld
Convenor, Social Determinants of Health Advocacy Network

Hon. Michael Ferguson MP, Minister for Health
Hon. Jacquie Petrusma MP, Minister for Human Services
Rebecca White MP, Shadow Minister for Health and Human Services, and Labor Spokesperson for Children
Michelle O’Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Education
Cassy, O’Connor MP, Greens
Hon. Ruth Forrest, MLC

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