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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2804 ..

The same could not be said for those in the early childhood education and care sector, who, unfortunately, have been fighting for decades to have their work recognised, respected and valued. It has been important for the economic viability of this country for the early childhood workforce to continue to work during a health pandemic so that the rest of us could go to work while our children were in care and education within those services. Not only are the wages significantly lower than a male-dominated workplace with the same kinds of qualifications but the regulatory work, the administration work, the work they do and how much they have to implement within their early childhood education and care spaces is just not recognised or valued through their wages.

I am continually disappointed that that workforce, which is so obviously female dominated, with something like 98 per cent of the workforce being women, can still not be recognised as valued in our community as early childhood educators. These are not childcare workers who wipe noses or bottoms; these are dedicated, experienced, qualified workers who do important work so that the rest of the women and families in our community can go to work as well.

Unfortunately, because of low wages, they have to make decisions that mean they leave the sector, a sector that is crying out for more workers, because not only can they not afford to live in their own homes but they cannot even afford to have their own children in the services that they provide the early childhood education and care for. I continue to stand beside those workers and implore the federal government and the Fair Work Commission to consider those pay cases and resolve the inequality of the wages in that workforce.

As Minister Gentleman as pointed out, the ACT government is absolutely committed to reducing gender inequality, including in its own workforce. Ms Orr notes in her motion that this is reflected in the higher female participation rates and lower gender pay gap.

Minister Gentleman referred to some of the work that the ACT Office for Women is doing around construction. Making sure that we have more women in construction is one thing, but making sure that there is a significant culture change within that workforce as well so that female workers are accepted and welcomed into those workplaces, one that recognises that they can do the work and are paid appropriately for that work, is important. The ACT Office for Women is working with unions and across government and with employers to make sure that that becomes a reality for young people to see what they can be one day.

We have been working, through the ACT Women’s Plan, around the range of actions and objectives in that space, fostering gender equity in Canberra workplaces, which includes improved gender equality in leadership as well as workforce participation. Our year 1 reporting on the status of actions as at December 2020 stated that all of the actions under this objective are already underway, so that is really good news for the action plan and the ACT.

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