Workforce shortages reach remote Kununurra and impact OSHC, closing service

Workforce shortages reach remote Kununurra and impact OSHC, closing service

by Freya Lucas

May 24, 2022

As services around Australia continue to struggle to attract and retain early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals, the situation is impacting parents, families and children, with those in regional and remote communities disproportionately affected. 

 

For families in Kununurra, a remote town in far northern Western Australia, approximately 45 kilometres from the border with the Northern Territory, the situation is now dire with an after school care service to close this week, leaving parents scrambling to find care. 

 

Demand for places in the region is far outstriped by supply, leaving families wondering whether or not they have a future in the remote community. In both Kununurra and nearby Broome services have limited access to places to meet ratio, leaving families frustrated as physical spaces are available without the educators to cater for them. 

 

Earlier in May Broome Daycare Centre emailed parents saying that essential workers and families with at-risk children would be the only ones able to access care, while Indigo Montessori Broome went so far as to ask families to find alternative care arrangements, if possible, as it struggled to replace departed staff.

 

After-school care offered by St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Kununurra will be suspended this week after a trained supervisor could not be recruited despite a months-long search. According to the ABC, principal Gabby Franco is hopeful that the service may be restarted next month through an alternative provider. 

 

For one parent of the service, Natalie Lees, the decision means her young son will have to be supervised by one of his parents at their workplace, leaving her concerned about the impact to his well being and socialisation. 

 

She predicts that for families where workplace supervision isn’t feasible, parents will need to drop hours at work, impacting businesses and service availability in the town. 

 

In compiling its response to the issue the ABC spoke to a number of families and community leaders, with the broader consensus being that limited ECEC options are preventing “much needed” professionals from staying in the region. 

 

The situation has also been made worse by a severe shortage of rentals, dramatically pushing up prices in Broome and Kununurra and dissuading would-be workers from moving to the area. ECEC professionals moving to the region for work do not have access to WA Government Regional Officers’ Housing, which is used to attract other essential workers to the region like teachers and police.

 

To access the original coverage of this story, please see here

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