Lack of ECEC hampers opportunity in Boulia
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > ‘It’s pretty much a free for all’ – Lack of ECEC hampers opportunities in Boulia

‘It’s pretty much a free for all’ – Lack of ECEC hampers opportunities in Boulia

by Freya Lucas

June 17, 2024

The Queensland community of Boulia sits approximately 300 kilometres south of Mount Isa, and when it comes to early childhood education and care (ECEC) one resident has described care options as “a free for all.”


Mother of four Mary-Ellen Blacket shared her experience with The ABC, outlining the challenges of bringing up a family and balancing multiple work and volunteer commitments without reliable ECEC. 


As well as being a rescue animal carer, Ms Blacket runs a helicopter business, operates the local caravan park and serves on the parent committee of her children’s school. On top of this busy schedule, she has had to step in and care for the children of other families so that they can go to work. 


“There was a young woman working at the clinic, a single mum, she didn’t have anyone to watch her baby and we’re always needing healthcare people out here,” Ms Blacket said.


“I watched her little boy for a few months — that was fun. He was quite hectic and I was heavily pregnant. We just juggle all the kids between us — it’s pretty much a free-for-all.”


With a population of nearly 500 people, Boulia has no ECEC options, with the nearest service more than 300 kilometers away, and with an extensive waiting list. It’s just one of the many communities in Queensland which is battling a shortage of ECEC, either in terms of available places, of staff, or of both. 


In response the Queensland government has granted at least one waiver allowing a service to remain open without meeting the requirements to have at least 50 per cent of staff with a qualification. 


The knock on effect in communities when ECEC services are limited or closed due to lack of staff can be huge, teacher Rachel Pickering explained. 


Ms Pickering works in the remote Aboriginal community of Doomadgee, accessing the ECEC service in town, however it was frequently closed “due to a variety of reasons.”


“They don’t have casual staff to replace them when they are not able to work. When they close, I can’t go to work, because I haven’t been able to find anyone else to take care of my one-year-old,” she said.


“When the daycare closes it is very hard for the school to run because at least four teachers are out with no one to replace them.”


To read the original coverage of this story please see here

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