Conference Themes

Realising the Vision: an integrated future for the early years

The early years are at the forefront of policy debate and reform across Australia and globally. This is an extraordinary ‘moment in time’ to shape the future—to build a universal platform for early childhood education and care, to stabilise and recognise the early childhood workforce, and to better integrate supports for both children and families across allied health, social services and major service systems such as the NDIS. It is critical that reform is driven by a clear vision that puts children at the centre of policy and service design. It is also important that the early childhood profession is actively engaged in both decision-making and implementation.

We are also on the cusp of creating a reconciled nation that recognises, values and celebrates the enduring strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and identities. The early childhood sector has an important role in this—through embracing cultural responsiveness and inclusive practice to foster children’s connection to culture and identity, while also forming respectful partnerships to empower First Nations communities and families.

The ECA National Conference is an opportunity to come together and help shape the future of Australia as a nation and the legacy we leave for the next generation of children.

Conference presentations will be aligned to one or more of the following areas of inquiry:

Celebrating and supporting the workforce

Working with young children can be demanding and challenging but also incredibly rewarding, fulfilling and joyful. The ECA National Conference is an opportunity to come together to celebrate and inspire early childhood educators, teachers and leaders. It is an opportunity to build professional belonging and pride. We welcome papers that celebrate and/or support the workforce. Suggested topics for this theme include:

  • measuring, valuing and building wellbeing in teaching teams
  • the value of fostering a culture of ongoing professional learning
  • expanding on the focus in the EYLF V2.0 of ‘Collaborative leadership and teamwork’
  • strengthening the management skills of service leaders.

Play in curriculum, pedagogy and praxis

ECA is a champion for play and play-based learning, as articulated in the ECA Statement on Play released in 2023 and during our annual celebration—Early Learning Matters Week. The ECA National Conference seeks to advance public understanding of the importance of play and supports the professional skills of educators who teach through play in both early years and school contexts. Suggested topics for this theme include:

  • the importance of play, play-based learning and playfulness
  • intentionality and explicit teaching—blending and mixing pedagogy and play
  • building practical skills and your ‘teaching toolkit’
  • recognition of the ‘artistry’ and expert knowledge of early years educators
  • engaging with curriculums (EYLF V2.0 and state/territory curriculums) and exploring how these influence and support our practice.

Welcoming transdisciplinary practice

There are increasing expectations for professionals working with young children across a range of sectors to work collaboratively. It is essential to maintain our strength-based and holistic approach to working with children and families. Suggested topics for this theme include:

  • cross-disciplinary practice examples and dialogue
  • effective support for transitions between home and early learning centres, ECEC settings and school, and different early learning centres and programs
  • therapeutic programming and the benefits and pitfalls of encompassing approaches, such as baby yoga, paediatric pilates and art therapy in high quality programs
  • trauma informed practice—what it is and why it matters.

Leading a sustainable future

There has been a strong focus on sustainability at ECA National Conferences over many years and it is imperative that we keep pushing ourselves to contribute to environmental, economic and social sustainability beyond the service setting. Suggested topics for this theme include:

  • new and innovative sustainability projects
  • approaches to developing the next generation of global citizens
  • sustainable workforce practices
  • inclusion and sustainability—connections between social empowerment, cultural inclusion and connections to country.

Future directions in digital technologies

We live in a time of rapid digital technology evolution. The early years are a critical time to teach children important skills that empower them to navigate complex social and ethical challenges likely to arise across their lifespan. Suggested topics for this theme include:

  • digital technology opportunities and applications—preparing children for their digital future
  • the benefits and challenges of embracing AI
  • ethical dilemmas that arise in the use of digital technologies.