Growing international interest in the early childhood years has been accompanied by an expansion of public programs in Australia targeting young children and their families. This article explores some of the influences and rhetoric that frame these initiatives. It encourages critical examination of the discourses that shape the nature of early childhood programs in Australia and identifies a range of barriers that inhibit the involvement of early childhood teachers in the design and delivery of social policy initiatives for young children. As the imperatives of programs seeking to overcome social disadvantage take prominence in Australian early childhood policy initiatives, pedagogical perspectives that promote universal rights to more comprehensive early childhood experiences can easily be silenced. The article calls for pedagogical leadership to overcome these barriers and promote the democratic rights of all children to high-quality and publicly supported early childhood education and care programs.