The Politics of Australian Child Care: From Philanthropy to Feminism

By Ispa, Jean | Family Relations, January 1996 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Australian Child Care: From Philanthropy to Feminism


Ispa, Jean, Family Relations


Brennan, Deborah. (1994). The Politics of Australian Child Care: From Philanthropy to Feminism. New York: Cambridge University Press. 242 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-52141792, price $59.95.

This book describes in considerable detail the history of the child-care debate in Australia. Brennan begins her story in the late 1800s, when a few upper-class women volunteered their time to create and fight for preschools for the children of poor working women. After taking her readers through the child-care-related political struggles of the early and middle 1900s, she ends her story in 1993. By then, it had become Australian national policy to give financial assistance to all providers of out-of-home care for children of working parents.

In Australia, the commitment to child care has survived, and even grown, despite pressures to reduce the overall commonwealth budget. Given the very different situation in the United States, American early childhood educators might be particularly interested in learning how this came to be. Brennan stresses that Australian child-care policy has been heavily shaped by politically savvy feminists who have argued that it is a responsibility of government to provide direct funding for child-care services for all citizens (not just the poor). Moreover, for decades, these skillful advocates have worked hard to create awareness and alliances within unions and business management, as well as within government offices. During the last decade, their position has been strengthened by studies showing that the cost of commonwealth support for child care is more than offset by the economic benefits of mothers' employment for families and for the nation as a whole. …

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