Waiting years for a space - Eurobodalla families highlight ECEC crisis

Waiting years for a space – Eurobodalla families highlight ECEC crisis

by Freya Lucas

March 28, 2022

Families in Eurobodalla on the South Coast of New South Wales are waiting months, and sometimes years for an early childhood education and care (ECEC) space for their child or children, as local services say they are struggling to recruit and retain staff. 

 

At a recent children’s services forum held in the community and run by Eurobodalla Council attendees discussed the emerging crisis for ECEC services and children of the shire, with nearly 400 local children on waiting lists, and with almost all ECEC services in the town with staff vacancies. 

 

Some services within the community have been forced to close their doors with little notice to parents due to COVID-19 restrictions compounding existing staff shortages.

 

In an article summarising the key findings from the forum Eurobodalla Council’s community development manager Kim Bush acknowledged a number of factors that were at play in the broader ECEC sector such as lower-than-average pay rates for qualified staff, no locally-based training options, a national operating framework placing additional administrative burden on centres, and a distinct lack of health and support services for families in the region.

 

Far more than the impacts on families, the far reaching effects of the shortages include impact to educator wellbeing and mental health, children’s development, and hindrance of the local economy, she added. 

 

Ms Bush expressed concern about the longer term outcomes for children who were unable to access early learning prior to school, and an increase in the number of children in the community presenting with behavioural issues having limited access to allied health support. 

 

“If you invest in the early years you get a better community outcome long-term – instead we’re continuing a cycle of disadvantage,” she added. 

 

Representatives from ECEC services, health and non-profit organisations workshopped ideas for a brighter future at the Forum, setting up an action plan which prioritises advocating for government subsidised wages, more collaboration across the sector, and reinstating early childhood courses at the local TAFE.

 

“We’re calling for more government investment in our most precious assets – our children – and for universal principles so everyone can access early learning,” Ms Bush said.

 

“We’re at a moment in time when our sector needs leadership. Council will be demanding action and advocating to anyone who will listen.”

 

A notice of motion was presented at a recent Council meeting in acknowledgement of the significance of the issue, with Deputy Mayor Alison Worthington seeking councillors’ support for the Thrive by Five campaign, an initiative of the Minderoo Foundation calling for national early learning and childcare reform.

 

The motion seeks to write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese, the Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge, the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Youth Amanda Rishworth, and to local federal MPs Kristy McBain and Fiona Phillips seeking bipartisan support for the campaign’s objectives.

 

To read the original coverage of this story please see here

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