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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1324 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

sensible federal government policies. The incidence of two-income families will increase further if paid maternity leave is introduced.

Unfortunately, something in the Australian psyche prevents us from recognising major problems until they land upon us. The medical insurance problems and what I can best describe as the tort rorts are but two examples of these difficulties. Let us try just once to address the child-care sector problems before they escalate.

As in the debate this morning on the dementia review, I urge the government not to let this issue drift on. I would like to see the review conducted in a reasonable time scale. The minister mentioned six months. I give you my undertaking, Minister, that we will keep you to this time scale. We will also ensure that the dementia review does not drag on.

I look forward to reading the terms of reference. The opposition is happy to support Ms Dundas' motion.

MS TUCKER (3.52): The Greens are happy to support this motion on child care, an issue everyone here acknowledges the importance of. As Ms Dundas said, you have to wonder whether salaries and the status of child care are related to the work of women. Work not just in child care but across human services generally is undervalued. Maybe it is a coincidence that this work is done mainly by women. Maybe it is a hangover of a culture that assumed that women's work should be done for nothing and is not valuable. The raising of children has traditionally been the role of women and still is in our society. The undervaluing of women's work has carried over to the work of caring for the children.

This motion is not just about undervaluing the work of women; it is about not understanding the value of caring for children in a way that promotes their wellbeing and facilitates their development so that they can reach their potential. I have worked in child care. The first qualification I received was in child care. I worked in child-care centres, in private homes and as a field worker for family day care in Canberra when my children were young, so I have had a fairly broad experience in the child-care industry.

My personal experience was shocking. I was appalled by the standards. I am sorry to say that, but that is the truth. I was part of the Australian Early Childhood Association's campaign to increase training for people who wanted to work in child care. When I first worked in the field there was very much a feeling that pretty well anyone could look after kids; that it was something that came naturally. Working in child-care centres, I was appalled to see the lack of professionalism in place. We saw improvements from the 1970s through to the 1980s. There are no three-year accredited courses for child-care workers, so we have seen an improvement in the training.

Child care could still be more highly rated as a qualification and training could be increased. Training is one of the most important tasks we have as a society. People taking care of other people's children have to be supported in their work. It is difficult work. It is

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