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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 649 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

maximum you can earn is just over $30,000. Naturally we are not able to retain people in positions where we need them.

In light of International Women's Day and issues affecting women, it is important to note that 97 per cent of those in the child-care work force in the ACT are women.

The declining number of students undertaking studies in child care impacts significantly on new staff entering the sector. Of those staff who do complete the diploma, many are choosing to further their education in other early childhood areas, such as preschool or primary school teaching, where the pay, conditions and status are much higher than in child care.

Clearly, training and experience need to be better recognised in the work that is being performed and the qualifications awarded. I note that the LHMU have lodged proposed amendments to the child-care award with the Industrial Relations Commission. Their proposal includes significant salary increases and improved conditions for staff employed under the award. The LHMU expect to have their claims heard early this year. This government strongly endorses the union's position.

It does, however, raise an issue that I am concerned about, which is who should pay for the wage increases. This is something we need to watch. At the moment parents are required to pay for any wage increases through raising fees. In some areas in Canberra, increases in fees can be met through parents' capacity to pay, but there are certainly areas in Canberra where parents do not have additional income to pay for raised fees. Fees for long day care currently sit between $200 and $300 a week. They are a significant impact on the average weekly take-home pay. The LHMU have sought Commonwealth funding for these wage rises. I will watch the outcome of that with interest.

The important thing about this report is that it gives the ACT government, the union and the child-care sector critical information to assist us to prepare and provide a response to these issues.

MS MacDONALD: Can the minister inform the Assembly of the recent measures undertaken by the ACT and Commonwealth governments with respect to child care?

MS GALLAGHER: Yes, I can. The Stanhope government has recently embarked on a number of initiatives in this area. Last week I was pleased to turn the first sod to commence construction of the new Gungahlin early childhood centre, which will improve access to child care in that region. It is due to open in October this year. It is an investment of $2.3 million and will provide 90 child-care places for children in the years prior to school. The building of the Gungahlin childhood centre confirms this government's commitment to expand child-care infrastructure in the ACT, with a particular focus in the Gungahlin area.

Plans for the early childhood centre also incorporate two meeting rooms that will be available for hire. The incorporation of the meeting space will provide an opportunity for the Gungahlin early childhood centre to be the focus of a range of services for children and their families in the Gungahlin community.

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