1. Governance and operations

1.1 ACECQA's role

As an independent statutory authority, we work with our government partners and the education and care sector to effectively and efficiently administer the NQF.

The Education and Care Services National Law (the National Law) sets out the majority of our functions under section 225, including:

  • promoting and fostering continuous quality improvement by education and care services
  • educating and informing about the NQF and supporting parents and communities in understanding the importance of quality early education and care
  • developing guidance materials for providers and educators to enhance their own professional development and focus on quality outcomes for children
  • establishing the qualifications required to be an educator in our sector
  • undertaking second tier review of quality ratings
  • making determinations with respect to the highest level of rating for approved education and care services - the Excellent rating
  • conducting national audits relating to the administration of the NQF.

We have responsibility for the training of authorised officers and for managing the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS), an online business tool for states and territories and the sector.

Working in collaboration with the nine governments of Australia, we support improved educational and developmental outcomes for children by informing policy decisions with advice based on evidence, research, audits and evaluations.

Our commitment to providing families and the community with service specific information, such as the publication of national registers to help them make informed choices about their child's education and care, and to recognise the importance of quality education for the development of their child, is driven by our overarching vision that children in Australia have the best start in life.

The Education Council's Letter of Expectation 2016-18 (Appendix A), agreed by all governments, sets the focus areas and is the foundation for our current strategic plan 2017-21 and forward work plan 2017-18.

Reporting requirements

We produce the following reports, as required under the National Law and the Education Council's Letter of Expectation.

Annual report

Our annual report includes:

  • an audited financial statement for the period to which the report relates
  • a report about our performance of our functions under this Law during the period to which the annual report relates
  • an assessment of the implementation and administration of the NQF
  • all directions given to us by the Ministerial Council and our response
  • all directions given to the Regulatory Authorities by the Ministerial Council and the Regulatory Authorities' responses
  • a report on any committees established by the Board and
  • any other matter determined by the Ministerial Council.

Strategic Plan

Our strategic plan for 2017-21 reflects our commitment and approach to working collaboratively with our government partners to effectively and efficiently administer the NQF. This five year plan articulates our operating environment and key strategic priorities, guiding us in the pursuit of our current and longer term goals.

Along with our priorities, strategy, role and framework, the strategic plan also outlines how we measure success. Our success indicators focus on ensuring families and parents are well informed, providing services and educators with targeted information to improve quality, conveying local and national perspectives of the NQF, and operating in accordance with statutory requirements.

Forward Work Plan

We have completed the majority of our forward work plan for 2017 and 2018, which documents our key deliverables and timelines for implementation. The work plan also demonstrates how we are meeting our obligations and functions as outlined in the National Law.

A substantial program of work outlined in our current forward work plan and completed in 2017-18 was preparing for and supporting the successful implementation of the NQF system changes agreed by the Education Council following the review of the National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda (NP NQA). Details of this work are provided in section 2 of this report.

three children outside on wooden bridge wearing hats in sun


Ministerial directions

Under section 222 (1) of the National Law, the Education Council may give directions to the ACECQA Board in relation to carrying out its functions under the law. Section 222 (2) also permits the Education Council to give directions to a regulatory authority with respect to the administration of the NQF. No directions were given by the Education Council in 2017-18.

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1.2 ACECQA's Board and Sub Committees


photo of board members

The ACECQA Board. Back row (left-to-right): Catherine Hudson, Robyn Layton, Sandra Cheeseman, Michael White, Joce Nuttall and Maree Bredhauer. 
Front row (left-to-right): Ann Farrell, Naomi Wilson. Judy Hebblethwaite, Jenni Perkins, Jackie Wilson.

ACECQA is governed by a Board of up to 13 members appointed by, and accountable to, the Education Council. Membership of the Board is outlined at  Appendix C,with Michael White, Jenni Perkins and Maree Bredhauer joining the Board in 2017-18.

The ACECQA Board held three meetings in 2017-18. Board meeting attendance is outlined at Appendix D.

Key undertakings for the Board in 2017-18 include overseeing and guiding:

  • the staged implementation of the NQA review changes, including a major communications strategy to support sector awareness and understanding of the NQF changes
  • the development and delivery of a new quality improvement program in conjunction with the NSW Department of Education, aimed at assisting identified services to Meet or Exceed the NQS
  • the delivery of a Qualifications and Workforce Symposium and a Higher Education Roundtable in support of sector workforce development
  • the development of our new website
  • the conduct of three national audits as part of our role to monitor and promote consistency
  • our performance against our strategic and forward work plans
  • our financial performance and deciding the 2018-19 budget, which will see us continue to operate within our overall funding envelope.

Board Sub Committees

Audit, Finance and Risk Sub Committee

The Audit, Finance and Risk Sub Committee provides independent oversight and monitors the organisation's governance, risk and control frameworks, financial performance and external accountability requirements. Membership of the AFR Sub Committee and details of meetings held throughout 2017-18 are outlined at Appendix E.

Priorities for the Sub Committee during the reporting period included:

  • reviewing and endorsing the financial statements
  • reviewing and monitoring our financial and corporate governance policies and strategies, including the risk management plan, investment policies, procurement policies, fraud control plan, financial delegations, and legal and compliance reporting
  • overseeing an internal audit of our compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles and Privacy Act 1988.

Performance and Remuneration Sub Committee

In 2016-17, the Performance and Remuneration Sub Committee provided advice on relevant matters and also managed the appointment of ACECQA's new CEO. Membership of the Sub Committee and details of meetings held throughout 2016-17 are outlined at Appendix E.

Enterprise Agreement Sub Committee

In 2017-18, the Performance and Remuneration Sub Committee provided advice on performance and remuneration matters for ACECQA. Membership of the Sub Committee and details of meetings held throughout 2017-18 are outlined at Appendix E.

Enterprise Agreement Sub Committee

There were no Enterprise Agreement Sub Committee meetings held in 2017-18. Membership of the Sub Committee is outlined at Appendix E.

Qualifications Working Group

The Qualifications Working Group provided direction on our qualifications and workforce symposium and higher education roundtable which brought together education and care providers, teacher registration bodies, governments and regulators, universities, registered training organisations and sector peaks.

The symposium collected valuable sector feedback about the quality of vocational education and training (VET) level qualifications and the sector's readiness and preferences in relation to the upcoming requirement for an additional early childhood teacher or other 'suitably qualified person' in larger long day care services and preschools/kindergartens.

Attendees at the higher education roundtable discussed workforce planning, qualifications accreditation processes and priorities for strengthening the quality of early childhood teaching degrees.

The Qualifications Working Group was formalised as a Sub Committee in June 2018. Membership of the Working Group and details of meetings held throughout 2017-18 are outlined at Appendix E.

Strategic Planning Working Group

In 2017-18 no Strategic Planning Working Group meetings were held. Membership of the Working Group is outlined at Appendix E. A decision was made in June 2018 to re-establish this working group as a sub committee in 2018-19.


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1.3 ACECQA's operations

Organisational structure and staffing

As at 30 June 2018, ACECQA's Executive comprised:

  • Chief Executive Officer - Gabrielle Sinclair
  • Chief Operating Officer - Angela Buchanan
  • General Manager Strategy, Communications and Consistency - Michael Petrie
  • National Education Leader/General Manager Educational Leadership - Rhonda Livingstone
  • General Manager Policy and Strategic Programs - John Mason. [1]

[1.    Following an internal reorganisation in 2018, a new business group was established in March to deliver ACECQA's policy and second tier review functions and strategic programs. In 2017-18 this included a separately funded program focussing on service quality in NSW.]

The Board and Governance team supports our Board and manages legal governance, planning, and reporting and accountability requirements across the organisation, including our participation in inter-governmental environments. Leading this team is the Board and Company Secretary, Michelle Edwards.

The Business Services group is led by Angela Buchanan and delivers corporate services functions including:

  • Finance
  • Human resources and facilities
  • IT, information and records management.

This group also includes ACECQA's education and care systems team, which provides maintenance and development of the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) for the NQF, including sector and regulatory authority support.

The Strategy, Communications and Consistency group is led by Michael Petrie and:

  • develops and implements engagement and communication strategies to inform stakeholders, the community and families about the benefits of early childhood education and care, and the role that the NQF plays in providing positive outcomes for children
  • delivers information to stakeholders who contact us about the NQF
  • undertakes research, audit and analysis activities which contribute to overseeing and reporting on the administration of the NQF, including that positive outcomes are being delivered for children
  • approves educator qualification courses being offered by institutions, and determining the equivalence of individuals' qualifications who may want to work in the sector, particularly those with overseas qualifications
  • in collaboration with stakeholders, works to develop and support a high quality early childhood education and care workforce.

The Educational Leadership group is led by Rhonda Livingstone and:

  • works collaboratively with regulatory authorities and peak organisations to develop and deliver presentations, workshops, articles, training, guidance materials and resources to build a shared understanding of the requirements and expectations of the NQF for authorised officers, educators, approved providers and interested others
  • assesses and promotes excellence in the delivery of early childhood and school age care services and supporting continual quality improvement
  • provides advice on quality programs, practices and policies in early childhood education and school age care services and contributes to national reform processes.

The Policy and Strategic Programs group is led by John Mason and:

  • leads our national policy and strategic programs to support governments, regulatory authorities and the sector
  • works with governments and the sector to provide strategic advice and support in the effective implementation of the NQF, including operational policy advice
  • manages our quality rating second-tier review function and development of new programs and services.

The number of FTE staff at 30 June 2018 was 96 inclusive of employees on parental and unpaid leave. A breakdown of the workforce profile by FTE, headcount and gender is at Table 1.

Table 1: Workforce Profile - FTE and headcount by gender 30 June 2018













% of workforce (headcount)




Our organisational structure as at 30 June 2018 is outlined in Figure 1.

Human Resources

Our HR team continued to support the organisation strategically and operationally, including assisting staff through training programs to promote and enhance engagement, development and performance.

Figure 1: Organisational Structure, 30 June 2018



In 2017-18, these initiatives and programs included:

  • developing integrated compliance and induction training programs for commencing staff members and managers, as well as refreshing onboarding and induction materials to provide new starters with the best opportunity to make an effective contribution as quickly as possible
  • refreshing our performance planning and review system to increase overall engagement with the process and improve the system's contribution towards the organisation's commitment to a high performance culture
  • progressing the implementation of technology-enabled HR systems to reduce the administrative overheads for HR and management, providing for a stronger focus on adding value to our strategic and operational objectives.

The HR team also supported a number of significant organisational initiatives in 2017-18, including the establishment of the Quality Support Program and consolidation of ICT functions.

close up of children at a messy table activity

Information and Communication Technologies

Our IT team continues to support the wider organisation on information and communication technologies and has delivered a number of projects to enhance organisational ICT capabilities in 2017-18, including:

  • conducting a full ICT Disaster Recovery test, simulating a failure of resources in the primary data centre and successfully confirming access and use of the secondary facility
  • replacing all printer and multi-function devices, providing increased functionality, considerable cost savings, and improved energy efficiency
  • guiding major projects across the organisation, including the implementation of our new website and selection and implementation of a new eLearning platform.

The IT and Education and Care Systems Teams were consolidated to form the ICT Team which resulted in streamlined management and better use of skill sets across the ICT systems.

Records and Information Management

We continue to maintain a strong focus on implementing best practice records and information management.

In 2017-18, major work was undertaken on progressing the implementation of an Information Security Management System (ISMS), aligned with the ISO 27001 framework. Work will continue on the review of existing policies and procedures to ensure alignment with our Information Security Policy.


In 2017-18, the majority of our funding was provided by the Australian Government and the state and territory governments under the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care.

In addition to this operational funding, additional streams in 2017-18 also included:

  • fee revenue under the National Regulations relating to our functions of assessing qualifications and undertaking second tier reviews
  • 10 per cent of NQF related transaction and annual fees levied by the state and territory governments for calendar year 2017 in accordance with the NPA
  • operational funding from the Australian Government and states and territories for administering, maintaining and upgrading the NQA ITS, and
  • one-off project funding for delivering specific projects for governments, including funding received in advance from the NSW Government to deliver a program to build quality in education and care services.

Financial performance 2017-18

We operated in accordance with the Board approved budget to deliver on the strategic priorities contained in the Letter of Expectation for 2016-18 from the Education Council. The operating result for the 2017-18 financial year was a surplus of approximately $2.9 million. The surplus was largely due to recognising the funding received in advance from the NSW Government for a program to be delivered in 2018-19.

Funding from governments received in 2017-18 was approximately $16.4 million. We also received own source revenue of approximately $0.8 million, mainly from services delivered under the National Regulations on a fee for service basis, the sale of NQF educational resources and interest income.

The Financial Statements report a $16.2 million accumulated surplus as at 30 June 2018. This includes approximately $6.7 million funding received in advance from the Australian Government and $2.2 million net funding received in advance from the NSW Government, which will be progressively spent in 2018-19, as well as required working capital to remain solvent. As an independent statutory authority, adequate working capital is crucial to our financial viability to ensure the agency can arrange supplier contracts, declare solvency and cover any funding shortfall or funding delays.

The total expenditure for the 12 months was $14.3 million. The main expenditure items were:

  • salaries and on-costs (approximately 69 per cent)
  • ICT costs (approximately 9 per cent)
  • occupancy costs (approximately 6 per cent).

At 30 June 2018, ACECQA's total financial assets were approximately $17.8 million, increased by $3.3 million compared with the previous financial year of $14.5 million. The increase was mainly due to the once-off funding received in advance for services to be delivered in 2018-19.

WHS and work environment

We remain committed to providing and maintaining a strong WHS management system that delivers a sound framework of WHS policies and procedures and other initiatives that support staff across the organisation. During 2017-2018, a comprehensive review of the WHS Policy was completed to ensure currency and compliance with better practice guidelines. In the workplace, ergonomic assessments are regularly utilised by staff to reduce and eliminate hazards, systems are in place to regularly check key risk areas and information and training sessions are regularly attended by staff to increase awareness of their safety responsibilities.

During 2017-2018, our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) working group progressed the development of our 'Innovate' RAP. This is our second RAP. It builds on the previous 'Reflect' Plan and demonstrates our commitment to reconciliation and our continued support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and perspectives within Australia.

We also continue to maintain a strong commitment to a supportive workplace through initiatives and events that engage staff and build community awareness. Our social committee held events to support International Women's Day, Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week, R U OK Day, Movember and Chris O'Brien Lifehouse. We are proud of the efforts of our staff to engage and support charities throughout the year. Through fundraising endeavours over recent years, our staff have donated more than $21,000 to a number of charities.

Freedom of Information

Freedom of information requests

Table 2 shows the status of Freedom of Information applications for access to information for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018.

Applications considered


On hand as at 1 July 2017




Granted in full


Granted in part


Access refused






On hand as at 30 June 2018


Internal reviews


Appeals to the National Education and Care Services Freedom of Information Commissioner


Appeals to the relevant Administrative Tribunal


Information Publication Scheme

The National Law and the National Regulations apply and modify the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).
As an agency subject to the FOI Act, we are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). Our IPS is on our website and includes the Information Publication Plan and details of our:

  • organisational structure
  • governance
  • statutory appointments
  • functions and powers
  • reports
  • consultative arrangements
  • operational information.
children outside engaging with water activity



ACECQA must comply with the Privacy Act 1988 as applied by the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations.

Our Privacy Policy sets out relevant information on the way personal information about staff and stakeholders is collected, handled, used and disclosed, as well as how it can be accessed and corrected. The Privacy Policy was updated in 2017-18 to reflect new requirements for notifiable data breaches. Both the policy and our Privacy Statement are located on our website.

During 2017-18, we did not receive any privacy complaints. In addition, no investigations of ACECQA were undertaken by the National Education and Care Services Privacy Commissioner.

An internal audit on our compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles and Privacy Act was conducted by RSM in December 2017, assessing compliance over the following key areas:

  • consideration of personal information privacy
  • dealing with personal information
  • integrity of personal information
  • access to, and correction of, personal information.

The overall findings indicated that adequate controls are in place and operating effectively at ACECQA.

Privacy training was provided during the reporting period for staff dealing with personal information.

Education and Care Services Ombudsman

The National Law and the National Regulations apply and modify the Commonwealth Ombudsman Act 1976.

The Office of the Education and Care Services (ECS) Ombudsman is responsible for independently examining complaints and concerns about the administrative actions of ACECQA.

In 2017-18, we worked with the Office of the ECS Ombudsman to resolve any matters raised with the Ombudsman, with no formal investigations instigated.

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