Director calls for more support for ECEC leaders
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > What about the Directors’ rights and wellbeing? Mentor, Director and advocate speaks

What about the Directors’ rights and wellbeing? Mentor, Director and advocate speaks

by Freya Lucas

September 19, 2023

“We need change and we need to soon or the sector will continue to crumble…”


These are the words of director and early childhood education and care (ECEC) mentor  Xrystine Mirecki who is concerned about the wellbeing and mental health of her fellow directors, after observing that, of the many other directors she mentors, “every single one is having significant issues in the service they run that are directly affecting their mental health.”


Ms Mirecki is concerned that many in the ECEC sector have been promoted to positions of leadership “due to filling the gap” and “have no idea what the role is or the depth of the skills they need to navigate the daily running of a service.”


The number of issues in the ECEC sector, she continued, ‘run deep’, something she believes stems from a lack of consistent and experienced leadership.


Leaders Struggling on All Fronts: “An Overwhelming Confrontation”


The challenges faced by ECEC leaders have reached an unprecedented level of complexity. We are not only expected to be highly qualified in our field but also to wear the hats of counsellors, doctors, and so much more. The weight of these multifaceted responsibilities is overwhelming, and it affects leaders on all levels.”


“I really believe the reason my service has a very low staff turnover is because I have a deep understanding of mental health and view each educator as a person with their own unique needs. I spend more time “counselling” or educating on self-love, help and wellbeing than focusing on paperwork. The educators at my service will openly share this with you, we have unlimited time off, a no questions asked time off rule. If they need it, they need it.” 


“As leaders, we often find ourselves confronted with issues beyond the scope of traditional training. We deal with the emotional well-being of our educators, children, and families. The toll this takes on us is immeasurable,” she continued. 


Change needed at all levels


Systemic leadership issues are not limited to Directors, she continued, adding that she believes Approved Providers should be ECEC qualified and have a minimum of a few years of ECEC experience to have the right to own an ECEC in Australia. 


“The gap between leadership, government and educators is huge,” she continued. 


“Change needs to come from the top with service managers getting some additional training and support to better equip them for the roles they take on. I am dealing daily with serious mental health issues from staff that have come from other parts of their lives, andI am listening to other directors who are burnt out and frankly do not have the training and support they need to take on such important roles.”


Consistent with contemporary research, Ms Mirecki notes that “Directors are tied down with huge amounts of paperwork for compliance and most are too scared to leave the office as the attitude, backlash and non- compliance of staff is rising.” 

“Educators have made it clear they have rights and I support and endorse this, however what about the directors’ rights and wellbeing?”

Calls for intervention and support


“While we navigate these uncharted waters, we must ask: Where is our support? Where is the government intervention that acknowledges the vital role we play in shaping the future of our children and society as a whole? It’s time for our leaders to receive the recognition and support they deserve,” Mirecki continued. 


“We need immediate access to counselling and mental health support. The toll of confronting emotional challenges daily is significant, and it’s time for the government to step in and provide resources to ensure our mental well-being remains intact.”


The training Directors receive, she said, should include courses and workshops that equip them to handle the emotional and mental health aspects of their roles. 


“The sector’s expectations have evolved, and our training must evolve with them. We need safe spaces for leaders to offload, seek advice, and ask questions.”


Ms Mirecki believes the government should  facilitate support networks and forums where leaders can collaborate and share experiences.


“We cannot continue to shoulder the emotional burden without adequate support,” she said. 


“It’s time for our leaders to receive the recognition, training, and resources they need to thrive in their roles.”

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