Ten Canberra community groups have joined to call on the ACT and federal governments to better support early childhood education and care.
The Children First Alliance has released a five-point plan urging an ACT early years strategy and calling on both governments to work together to extend subsidised preschool programs to three-year-olds.
Alliance co-chairman and YMCA chief executive Darren Black said the ACT could lead Australia in early childhood education.
"All the research is telling us that the most important learning years for children occur up until the age of six and we're simply not where we need to be in terms of investing in that early childhood education time," he said.
"Some of the outcomes of that in terms of problems is ... that you've got a situation where one in five young children in the territory are vulnerable and disadvantaged when they're entering kinder and primary school because they're not getting the access to quality early childhood that they need.
"It's even worse with disadvantaged elements of the community, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elements of our community, where it's double that."
The Children First Alliance has also called for a concerted effort from the ACT government to reach children experiencing disadvantage, strategically plan new services according to community needs and strengthen school aged care.
The network's five-point plan was released to coincide with the ACT government's Future of Education project, a community conversation aimed at providing greater equity for disadvantaged Canberra children.
The Children First Alliance includes Anglicare ACT, Belconnen Community Services, Communities@Work, Community Services #1, Goodstart Early Learning ACT, MOCCA, Northside Community Service, Woden Community Service, YMCA Canberra and YWCA Canberra.