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Australia has a dual regulatory system for the provision of child care. This is because the state and territory governments and the Australian Government have different roles and responsibilities.
A provider can operate and charge fees for child care services if they are approved under the National Law, even if they are not approved by the Australian Government under Family Assistance Law.
However, a provider must be approved under Family Assistance Law for Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy to be claimable by families for care provided to children at the provider’s service.
National Law approval
Providers need state or territory approval to operate a child care service. While there are some exceptions (discussed at Appendix C), providers cannot care for children unless they are approved under the National Law by the child care regulatory authority in their state or territory.
State and territory governments are responsible for ensuring providers are meeting standards for the safety, health and wellbeing of children and for the educational outcomes of children. State and territory governments do this through the National Quality Framework under the National Law and National Regulations.
To be approved under the National Law, providers and services must meet the requirements of the National Quality Framework. The National Quality Framework provides a national approach to regulation, assessment and quality improvement for child care services across Australia.
Key aspects of the National Quality Framework include:
- specified educator-to-child ratios so that each child receives the individual time and attention they need
- an approved learning framework to support each child’s learning and development
- educator qualification requirements so that educators are better able to lead activities that inspire children and help them learn and develop
- an assessment and ratings system so that parents know the quality of early learning and child care being provided and can make informed choices.
Further information on the National Law and the National Quality Framework and contacts for each of the state and territory regulatory authorities can be found at the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority website at www.acecqa.gov.au.
Family Assistance Law approval
The Australian Government is responsible for the administration and payment of Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy for families. It does this under Family Assistance Law, which sets out the entitlement families have to subsidies and the rules that apply to child care providers who provide subsidised care to children.
To become an approved provider under Family Assistance Law, a provider must hold the required approvals or licences to provide child care in the state or territory in which each of its child care services operate.
There are a small number of services that do not fall under National Law and are excluded from the requirement to hold National Law approval. An example of these services is In Home Care (see Appendix C).
Providers can apply for approval under Family Assistance Law while they are undergoing assessment for National Law approval. The application for approval by the Australian Government will request provider and service approval numbers that providers will receive when they apply for National Law approval.