Karratha mother feels stuck by lack of ECEC
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > Karratha mother Elkie laments lack of ECEC availability: ‘a constant juggling act’

Karratha mother Elkie laments lack of ECEC availability: ‘a constant juggling act’

by Freya Lucas

July 12, 2023

Karratha mother Elkie Richards feels like she is stuck, having to turn down promotions, constantly juggle the needs of her two children, and start her work day at 5am because of a lack of early childhood education and care (ECEC) options in the regional community. 


Ms Richards shared her story with the ABC, saying the lifestyle she is currently living is exhausting and not fair on her children. 


Prior to having her children, Ms Richards worked in the resources industry in WA’s north, but on facing a two-year wait for care after having the children, she had to re-evaluate her options.


While she has had multiple opportunities to diversify her career, or take on leadership roles, a lack of ECEC availability is holding her back. 


The Pilbara, the region in which Karratha sits, was named as a childcare desert in Victoria University’s 2022 report, a position which is supported by BHP Port Operations General Manager Cindy Dunham who sees the impact of this issue on female workforce participation often in the course of her role. 


“It’s impacting on our ability to be able to achieve good sustainable work environments for our people that allows them to focus critically on their job, rather than be distracted around the welfare of their children,” she said. 


As an employer, BHP is taking proactive steps to address the shortages, working with early learning provider Wanslea to incentivise family day care educators to start services in the region, offering them a $5,000 establishment grant and ongoing professional development and support. 


Wanslea CEO Jo Sadler said the Pilbara has some of the most extreme shortages in the country, with one of the educators in the region having a waitlist of 75 children. 


The WA Government acknowledges the depth of the issue, with Early Childhood Education Minister Sabine Winton saying there needs to be input from governments and local industry into tackling the childcare shortage.


More than $1 million is on offer to local governments to help them develop their own attraction and retention programs for ECEC, and an increased commitment to developing the workforce through training and investment in TAFE is also underway.


Read the ABC coverage of this story here.

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