Young children on the Coast deserve better: early childhood leaders voice their concerns

by Selma Wastell

November 15

When local early childhood professionals from the Central Coast region of New South Wales were invited by Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, to meet with NSW Shadow Minister for Early Learning, Jodie Harrison, they “jumped at the opportunity.” Speaking recently with The Sector, the group shared their recollections of the event. 

 

“There are so many issues in early childhood that need urgent attention, that we will use whatever platform we can” said Early Childhood Australia’s local group member Rebecca Thompson.  

One of the first issues raised was the ‘regrettable’ wages, social status and working conditions of many early childhood educators in the field. Local early childhood service owner Catherine Schasser led the discussion here, noting that some owners and operators of services choose to pay above award wages and staff their services with above ratio numbers, in recognition of the level of skill required to care properly for Australia’s youngest citizens, whilst others adhere strictly to the minimum requirements of legal operation. 

 

The general consensus within the room and from the Governmental representatives present was that early childhood educators “should be paid what they are worth to our future, not the lowest wage that can be got away with.”

 

Following the discussion on wages and conditions, educators and leaders present shared their feedback in relation to the number of very young children presenting to education and care services with anxiety issues each year, meaning that trauma informed care is becoming a common necessity. 

 

Nada Potter, a psychologist and early childhood advocate from the region, outlined that the level of intervention and support that is required to support the complex needs of many of the youngest children is “often difficult to assess.” 

 

“If we are to see positive outcomes for children, parents and educators on the Coast needed to be better supported,” she said.  

 

Educators and leaders outlined to the politicians present that many families with young children are often living a stressful, sleep deprived existence and have limited financial, or emotional resources. Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are frequently the first port of call in accessing, recognising and then identifying the support that is needed, and referring families to the appropriate supports. 

 

In response, Ms Harrison outlined her support, saying that having a designated Minister for Early Childhood was “a positive strategy in providing a platform so that these concerns could be addressed across all levels of Government.”  

 

Those present agreed, asserting that in order for circumstances for young people and their families to improve, all legislative and administrative bodies would need to prioritise the wellbeing of the youngest citizens. 

 

Ms Tesch outlined that she welcomed input from those in the ECEC sector in local government meetings, encouraging educators and leaders to participate in Gosford City Council planning decisions, from the planning of parks and recreation spaces to the provision of footpaths and services for families. 

 

The Central Coast branch of Early Childhood Australia had previously facilitated a debriefing session for Central Coast ECEC services, giving them the opportunity to give feedback and debrief on their experiences of the Assessment & Rating process. Ms Tesch committed to take this information forward to continue to keep government accountable. Jodie Harrison also expressed an interest in following up on that data.

 

Summing up the meeting, regional representative for the Central Coast, Selma Wastell, saidIf politics is “the way that people living in groups make decisions”, then this gathering was a fine example of a step in that process.

 

For more information about the work of the Central Coast branch, please email Selma – cc@nsw.earlychildhood.org.au . To learn more about the regional branches of Early Childhood Australia in other locations, please see here

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