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4.3 Childcare

Contributed by AlexandraWright and current to 1 May 2016

Childcare centres

The Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011 apply to centre-based long day care, family day care, preschool and outside school hours care services across Australia. However, not all services providing care and education to children fall within the Regulations - (see Unregulated Childcare Facilities).

Quality Education and Care NT (QECNT) is the regulatory authority responsible for administering the National Quality Framework across the Northern Territory. QECNT is part of the Department of Education (NT).

QECNT's key roles include, but are not limited to:
  • monitoring compliance
  • conducting assessment and quality rating visits
  • undertaking serious incident and complaint investigations with particular regard for the health, safety and wellbeing of children.

QECNT's contact number is (08) 8999 3561. QECNT keeps a register of approved childcare providers, education and care services and certified supervisors available at the below link:,-education-and-care-services-and-certified-supervisors

Further information about the national quality framework can be found at the Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority (TM) at the below link:

The national regulations set out the responsibilities of childcare providers, including the following:
  • A childcare centre must ensure that a child brought to the centre is not returned to any person other than the parent or other authorised person, except where either of them has authorised another person to collect the child. A childcare centre must not handover a child to a parent where a court order prohibits this.
  • A childcare centre must ensure that there is a specific ratio of childcare educators to children, with that ratio set according to the age of the children being cared for. There are different ratios set for family day care providers.
  • There are requirements for minimum numbers of staff at childcare centres to have specific childcare/early childhood education qualifications, with provision for some staff to be qualified and for others to be actively studying for their qualifications. Similar regulations apply to family day care providers, with exceptions for providers who had been providing family day care to children for at least 5 years prior to the regulations coming into effect.
  • A childcare centre must allow and encourage a parent or other authorised person (or a person nominated in writing by either of them) to visit the child at any time, unless the parent poses a risk to the safety of children or staff at the service, or would conflict with the provider or service's legal duties or would be in breach of a court order.
  • If there is an outbreak of infectious disease at an education or care service, the provider must take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of the disease at the service, and inform parents/emergency contacts of children of the outbreak. The provider of a family day care service must inform parents/emergency contacts of children of the outbreak.
  • The licensee must hold public liability insurance of $10,000,000 minimum.
  • A childcare centre must provide at least the specified minimum amounts of outdoor space and adequate shaded areas.
  • The childcare providers cannot administer medication to a child without authorisation, but in an emergency that authorisation can be provided verbally by a parent, or otherwise by a doctor or emergency medical staff.
  • In addition to the above, the approved provider of an education and care service must have in place and follow policies about a wide range of issues relating to the care and safety of children and staff, including health and safety, accidents and emergencies, the management of medical conditions, fees and enrolment, and a complaints process.

Unregulated childcare facilities

There are some childcare arrangements that aren't covered by the National Regulations. Examples are nannies, education and care in a child's home and short-term school holiday care arrangements of less than four weeks' care per year. There are no special laws governing the operation of less formal childcare facilities.

However, those who have taken over the care of someone's child will have a general duty of care to ensure the safety of that child. If that duty is breached and the child suffers some injury as a consequence, the parents of the child may have an action in negligence against the carer (see Accidents on private and public property ). Carers are also obliged to ensure that the children being cared for are not being neglected or maltreated.

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