Workforce issues a big concern at ECA’s Federal Election 2022 Candidates Forum

In case you missed all the action from Early Childhood Australia’s Federal Election 2022 Candidates Forum, here is a quick summary to bring you up to speed because #EarlyLearningMatters this election.

ECA’s Federal Election 2022 Candidates Forum saw key election candidates responsible for early childhood portfolio engage with the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector and community by responding to their questions and concerns. The panel comprised of Hon Stuart Robert MP, Acting Minister for Education and Youth, Member for Fadden, Australian Liberal Party; Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, Shadow Minister Early Childhood Education, Member for Kingston, Australian Labor Party; Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens Spokesperson, Senator for NSW; and, Jane Caro AM, NSW Senate Candidate, Reason Party.

The forum facilitated an unbiased dialogue between key political parties, and the ECEC sector and community, on the need for high quality early learning in terms of access, affordability, inclusion and stability for every child.

Considering we are losing about 30% of educators annually[1], it came as no surprise that workforce issues dominated the forum. Responding to this issue, Minister Roberts emphasised on the Coalition’s plans on adding to the workforce through training, apprenticeships and placements. Referring to the JobTrainer programme, he said, ‘We have seen 10,000 educators join since November to February. Over 23,000 right now training either free or low-fee.’

On the other hand, Minister Rishworth stressed on pay equity and professional recognition for the sector. While the party’s primary focus is on making early learning and education affordable and accessible through an increase in subsidies, when talking about the workforce issue, she noted, ‘Labor will change the Fair Work Commission to give you fighting chance to actually put your case to them (which involves a female pay equity as a principle)’.

Calling the treatment of early learning educators a national shame, Senator Faruqi stressed for the need to implement a proper workforce strategy. ‘The Gold Standard is the Victorian ECP model wherein the early childhood educators are paid the same as primary school teachers,’ she said.

‘$33 is not enough to pay for professionals who are looking after our most important resource – our children,’ said Ms Jane Caro, in her response to the workforce issue. She said that people are leaving the (early learning education) workforce for the simple reason that paying conditions are not at par with the skills and responsibilities expected from the people who work in the sector.

Other key issues discussed at the forum included, initiatives from a rural and remote perspective, building and growing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Integrated Early Years Services, inclusion for children with special needs and focus on infant and maternal health.

This has been one of the few election seasons, wherein early learning and education has been at the front and centre of key commitments and conversations. We will continue to advocate for a strong universal platform for early childhood education and care to support all children to learn and thrive now and into the future, and look forward to supporting the oncoming government in their journey towards bringing a positive change to the sector.

To watch the full video of the online Federal Election 2022 Candidates Forum, click here.

[1] Thorpe, K, Jansen, E, Sullivan, V, Irvine, S, and P McDonald 2020, ‘Identifying predictors of retention and professional wellbeing of the early childhood education workforce in a time of change’, Journal of Educational Change vol. 21, p. 639.

Early Childhood Australia

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has been a voice for young children since 1938. We are the peak early childhood advocacy organisation, acting in the interests of young children, their families and those in the early childhood field. ECA advocates to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children aged birth to eight years.

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