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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1319 ..

FACE="Times,Times New Roman">MS DUNDAS (continuing):

That this Assembly:

(1) recognising that the ACT childcare sector is experiencing a shortage of skilled staff;

(2) recognising that the staffing shortage is due to structural problems in the industry, including wages that do not adequately reflect levels of training or responsibility;

(3) calls on the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services to table the terms of reference of the Departmental review into the ACT childcare sector, and to report to the Assembly upon completion of the review.

I note with interest that within hours of this motion appearing on the notice paper the government announced the review the original motion called for. I welcome their speedy response to the concerns raised by that motion. I hope the Assembly welcomes the opportunity to discuss the importance of child care, and perhaps it will provide the government, which seems quite willing to act on this issue, with some indication of members' views on this matter. In the spirit of working together on such a key issue for our community, the motion I have moved incorporates and reflects the steps the government has today taken on this matter.

Mr Speaker, fathers of today do assume greater responsibility for parenting than was the case in the past, but the burden of child rearing still falls disproportionately on mothers. For this reason, affordable, high-quality child care is fundamental to the rights of women to participate in the work force. If there are too few child-care places, women-it is usually women-are prevented from participating in paid work and from maximising their contribution to our economy and society through this work.

As many people have argued, it is not who cares for a child that matters but it is the quality of care that is the key. Our responsibility to all children in our community means that we must be sure that child care is of a standard that contributes to the development of children as happy, curious and well-balanced people. The only way we can ensure the long-term stability of the child-care sector and ensure high standards of care is by transforming the industry into one that provides long-term career paths for workers, coupled with attractive pay and conditions.

The legacy of sex discrimination is that of pitifully low rates of pay in many occupations that perform work traditionally done by women for no remuneration. Child care is now a profession, and a diploma is required for staff to be engaged at centres. However, pay rates of these highly skilled staff do not yet fully reflect the level of skill they bring to the job or the responsibility exercised by the people who care for the children of our community.

As a result, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that many graduates of the child-care diploma courses at CIT and graduates of early child-care studies either choose not to enter the child-care work force or leave the sector for better paying jobs elsewhere. It has been suggested that this may be leading to a crisis in child care. Maybe that is the case, but without this study, without data collection, we cannot be sure.

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