Transcript of the news conference where we released our open letter to the Prime Minister

Transcript of the news conference where we released our open letter to the Prime Minister

Leah and Rebecca

Tuesday 23 December 2014
News conference
All Abilities Playground, Brisbane Botanic Gardens

SUBJECT/S: Childcare funding; Open letter to Tony Abbott; Scott Morrison’s new portfolio; Government achievements for women.  

SHARRON CADDIE, Assistant Secretary Queensland Branch, United Voice, the early childhood union: Our union represents thousands of educators, directors and providers. Educators like Leah Malzard, who works at a centre nearby, directors, like Rebecca Swainson. And also with me today is Jo Briskey from The Parenthood, who represents the voice of parents in this sector.

We have come together today united as a sector in a way that has never happened before.

Large providers, small providers, for profit providers, community providers, parents and educators have come together to send a strong Christmas message to Tony Abbott and the new Minister Scott Morrison. And that message is simple: that the vast majority of the money that the Prime Minister has said will be redirected from his paid parental leave scheme should go to where the majority of families are, and that is the quality, well-regulated early years sector, the long day care sector.

We’ve sent this message to Tony Abbott in an advertisement today in The Australian. It is unheard of that the sector has united in such a way around such a simple common sense proposition and that is: the vast majority of money should go where the vast majority of families are and that’s the quality long day care sector.

I would now like to throw over to Jo Briskey from The Parenthood

JO BRISKEY, Executive Director of The Parenthood: Hi, I’m the Executive Director of The Parenthood. We are Australia’s lead advocacy group for parents.

Parents are screaming out for high quality early learning and care. The biggest difference that getting back to work for parents, and particular mothers, is access to affordable, accessible, high quality early learning and care. In fact, parents who have responded to one of our national surveys that we have had out in the field recently have said that their priority, that they want this Government to invest the extra funds that the Prime Minister has made available to towards targeting the quality early learning and care sector. Only about 10% of parents said that that money should go towards subsidies for nannies.

This is because the vast majority of Australian families are seeking high quality early education and care and that is what will make the biggest difference for them and their families.

SHARRON CADDIE: I would now like to call on Rebecca Swainson to talk about the new money from a worker’s perspective.

REBECCA SWAINSON: Hi I’m Rebecca Swainson. I’m a  Director at Children @ Bay Terrace out at Wynnum and as a Director I see that parents long for more, for the ability to be able to go out and work more. They really need to go out there and continue in the workforce and continue their professions as well, and as a Director I often hear how parents are struggling on a day to day basis.

And that’s why we are asking the Federal Government to put the paid parental leave money that they are taking out of the budget and put it into early childhood so we can retain the educators to have a consistent form of care that parents rely on us every single day for. They really look forward to turning up every single day and seeing familiar faces. And that’s when children grow and learn. It’s through establishing those bonds with those carers, so then that they can gain the milestones that are needed, so then they can become fantastic children and participate themselves the workforce when they become older as well.

I’ll just pass on to Leah Malzard who’s an educator with a childcare centre.

LEAH MALZARD, early childhood educator: I think the money does need to come into the early learning education and care sector. These are Australia’s youngest citizens that we care for. They deserve the best. They deserve high quality educators, in high quality early childhood and care centres. Quality does matter. This money will help make that happen. Quality counts.

SHARRON CADDIE: So our message today to the Prime Minister and the new Minister Scott Morrison is a simple one and that is that as much of the money that is being redirected from the paid parental leave scheme as possible should be redirected to the high quality, well regulated services that so many Australian families rely on. This would be an incredible achievement by this Government for women. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:  Sharron, you are saying quality and affordable. Now people in Sydney are paying as much as $160 per day. Is that becoming a norm?

SHARRON CADDIE:  Yes, fees are on the increase. There is no doubt about that. So the money that people put towards high quality childcare is a big part of their budgets. So what we are saying is the money that the Government is redirecting from the paid parental scheme should be going to affordable, quality childcare services. That would make a huge difference to working families.

JOURNALIST:  Have you got a figure about what is affordable, like how much would you like to see it go down by, or subsidised? … unintelligible… So what is affordable …unintelligible…

JO BRISKEY:  Look, we have to look at the care that we are looking to invest in and affordability is not reaching those amounts of upwards of $150, $160 a day for fees and we want to see that addressed because at the moment parents are telling us that after the mortgage childcare is one of the biggest expenditure items for the family budget and so that needs to be addressed urgently.

JOURNALIST:  Jo, what are your concerns about, I mean in your press release you’re talking about this money going to nannies?

JO BRISKEY:  We just think if the Government decides to solely invest the extra money into providing subsidies for nannies, as the Prime Minister has indicated, they miss out on a historic opportunity to change and improve the quality and accessibility of the high quality learning and are sector for the better. It would just be a missed opportunity and we would hate to see that happen.

JOURNALIST:  How dire is the situation? What are the waiting lists like?

JO BRISKEY:  Oh, it is different across the country but it is becoming a really difficult situation. When you’ve got women who are having to put their names down when they have only just found out that they are pregnant and hoping that they are able to get the care they want for their child, it’s a huge problem. 

But the problem is also not just simply about finding someone to look after your child for the day. It’s about wanting that your child have access to the early education and care that makes a significant difference to their learning and to their social development and success later on in life. Research clearly shows the benefits that high quality early education and care can mean for the future for our kids, especially for kids who are coming from the more disadvantaged background.

JOURNALIST:  And how difficult is for parents of multiple young children?

JOE BRISKEY: Oh well, I guess the more children you have and the more time you’ve got to have them in childcare the more expensive it is. Simple maths makes it very difficult.

JOURNALIST:  But finding spots for…

JOE BRISKEY: Yeah, even finding spots. We’ve got parents who say I’ve got one spot for one child but I can’t find a spot for his little brother and that’s really stressful for parents. So what’s happening is that women are just deciding - predominantly women - are just deciding to stay home because it’s just not worth it financially or the stress of it to go back to work and I think that is a shame. We need to get these women back to work. They want to go back to work. But it won’t be just someone to look after their child. It’s the experience, the learning environment that that child has that makes a huge difference to their families and that’s what families are screaming out for.

JOURNALIST:  What are the findings of your survey, some of the key findings? Were you surprised by any?

JO BRISKEY:  I guess the surprise was the lack of, not lack of support but for the subsidies for nannies. Overwhelmingly, parents responded with access to high quality early education and care as a bigger priority for where that money should go as opposed to subsidies for nannies. Almost 90% of parents say that access to affordable, quality early education and care should be the target for this further investment and only 10% say subsidies for nannies would make a difference for them.

JOURNALIST: Thank you.

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Contact: Nada Vlatko - 0425 242 691

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