Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke is urging Aboriginal people in the Cootamundra electorate to apply for a scholarship that will support them in studying a bachelor level early childhood teaching qualification.

Ms Cooke said the Aboriginal Early Childhood Education Scholarship program will complement ongoing training and leadership opportunities designed to support Aboriginal educators working in the early childhood sector.

“It is absolutely crucial Aboriginal culture is embedded in early childhood education in the Cootamundra electorate, and this scholarship investment will encourage more of that,” Ms Cooke said.

“Currently, fewer than 10 per cent of Aboriginal staff working in NSW preschools have a bachelor degree or above, compared to the NSW average of more than 30 per cent.

“This investment by the NSW Government aims to close the gap for degree-qualified professionals.

“Early childhood teaching is such a wonderful environment to work in and I would encourage anybody who is thinking of moving in that direction to grab this opportunity with both hands,” she said.

The Aboriginal Early Childhood Education Scholarships program will offer 15 scholarships per year of up to $20,000 each, with the funding going towards costs incurred during studying such as travel, technology and textbooks.

Minister for Early Childhood Education Sarah Mitchell said the scholarships will also go beyond financial assistance, with the NSW Government committing to supporting scholarship recipients throughout their studies by linking them with mentoring programs and other support.

“Through the scholarship program and additional mentoring and support, NSW can look forward to seeing more Aboriginal students successfully joining the early childhood education workforce,” Ms Mitchell said.

“All children in NSW deserve the best start to their education, and we need a diverse and highly skilled workforce to achieve that.”

Applications for the Aboriginal Early Childhood Education Scholarships are open now and will close on Friday, December 7.