Regional WA parents feeling the pinch as educators fight for recognition

Regional WA parents feeling the pinch as educators fight for recognition

by Freya Lucas

April 21, 2022

A recently released  Mitchell Institute report shone a light on the many challenges faced by Australian parents when it comes to accessing early childhood education and care (ECEC) for their children, none more so than families in rural and regional areas.

 

Regional Western Australian families are experiencing the most challenge, waiting months, and sometimes years to access care. Providers in the region say their biggest challenge is with staffing, noting chronic shortages, huge sums being spent on sponsoring international visas, and not enough support from Governments at local, state and federal levels. 

 

Speaking with the ABC Louise Giolitto, CEO of  the WA Council of Social Service (WACOSS) said the report has landed at a pivotal time in the lead up to the federal election. 

 

An intervention is needed, she said, calling on the incoming Government to ensure that all families are able to access ECEC. 

 

“It’s clear that we can’t simply leave this problem to the for-profit childcare sector any longer,” Ms Giolitto continued. 

 

“There has to be an intervention from the federal government to ensure that everyone can access early education and childcare services.”

 

In the Gascoyne region, there are seven children for every available space, while in the Pilbara mining town of Tom Price, there are nine children vying for every available space. 

 

Karen Simpson who owns and operates an ECEC service in Kalgoorlie-Boulder has 305 families on a waiting list for her service, which is licensed to care for just 12 children each day. Her staff are feeling the stress of not only caring for the children who are already enrolled, but also from dealing with desperate families who are calling and attending the service and pleading for help and support. 

 

“Generally, the only time that places become available is at the end of each year so if you miss that place … the chances of getting one are so slim,” she told the ABC.

 

A chronic shortage of staff in the area is the biggest contributor to the lack of available spaces, she believes, calling for urgent wage reform to keep desperately needed qualified workers in ECEC roles.

 

Even when she can attract qualified workers to the area, they often begin in the role before being lured to mining positions which have a higher rate of pay. Private providers who are wanting to invest in facilities, but who lack the staff to fill them, or fail to nurture them once employed are another component of the problem, she continued. 

 

At the Little Toddies Childcare Centre in the South West of WA Maria Mighall is facing similar issues, saying that recognition of the complexities of the role is a vital part of making a real change in the sector. 

 

“They call us ‘childcare workers’, which is not even a professional title,” she said. “We’re actually educators and I think we should be valued.”

 

To read the original coverage of this story please see here

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