'The worst its been in years' - ECEC shortages in the Riverland
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > ‘The worst its been in years’ – ECEC shortages bite in South Australia’s Riverland

‘The worst its been in years’ – ECEC shortages bite in South Australia’s Riverland

by Freya Lucas

April 14, 2023

Director of Berri Regional Child Care Centre in South Australia’s Riverland community, Saffron Morris, is one of many people in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector around Australia trying to balance growing waiting lists and demands for care with staffing shortages. 


Ms Morris recently spoke with the ABC as part of a piece about ECEC availability in the region, which is expected to be under even more pressure in the coming months as measures to improve affordability come into play. 


The Riverland is one of many childcare deserts in Australia, with three or more children competing for every one space available. Berri is considered to be one of the busiest service hubs in the Riverland, and currently has families travelling in from outlying towns to seek care. 


Ms Morris currently has more than 30 families who are waiting for care, with spaces for children under two years of age the most in demand.


“The waiting list for our baby room would have to be the worst it’s been in a few years,” she said. “There’s just not enough spots.”


As a result of the pressures, she is currently exploring ways to change the structure of the rooms to accommodate the growing demand, however she’s hampered by the need for more educators to accommodate the changes. 


This, United Workers Union Director of Early Education Helen Gibbons said, is a consistent sticking point. 


“It’s outrageous that educators are paid as little as $24 an hour,” she told the ABC. “The number one reason driving early educators to leave the sector is their low pay.”


She said that a pay rise would not just be about the money, but would also demonstrate to educators that they are respected and valued by the Government and the local community. 


A spokesperson for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the Federal Government understood the importance of increasing wages in the sector but did not commit to any action at this time.


“We know our highly skilled early childhood educators do such important work – and it’s crucial this is properly valued and recognised,” the spokesperson said.


“We’re not pre-empting the outcomes of any bargaining processes or applications that may commence through the Fair Work Commission [to increase wages at this time].”


Access the original coverage of this story here.

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