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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3719 ..

Gender imbalance in the delivery of educational services

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mrs Burke proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The gender imbalance in the delivery of educational services to children and young people in the ACT

MRS BURKE (3.42): Mr Speaker, I rise today to bring to the attention of members the gender imbalance in the delivery of educational services to children and young people in the ACT. The ACT government needs to address, as a matter of some urgency, the lack of males working in the local child-care industry. I am sure that no-one in this place would dispute the statement that employment within the child-care industry is overwhelmingly dominated by females.

I have been in contact with child-care facilities in Canberra and have found that the lack of male staff is not only heavily impacting on this sector but also flowing through to our schools. I understand that my good colleague Mr Pratt will be elaborating on this aspect for members.

Families are, naturally, cautious about who looks after their children, but it appears that males are being stigmatised, labelled and marginalised as sex fiends or paedophiles, so turning them away from a career in child care. That is a most unfortunate attitude that we need to work hard to reverse. Whilst the scarcity of men in teaching in general is having serious consequences for the status of the teaching profession, the situation appears to be much worse in early childhood education, where the number of males engaged drops dramatically.

Empirical research done by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1999 showed that there was a drop in the number of male teachers in primary education of 4 per cent between 1986-87 and 1997-98 and an increase of 21 per cent in the number of female teachers. In 1997-98, males constituted 30 per cent of the work force, compared with 35 per cent in 1986-87. These figures are from the labour force surveys for 1999 of the ABS.

I doubt many would argue against the statement that boys perform better in certain areas of our education system when supported by male teachers. We most certainly do have a problem whereby men who want to work in the child-care industry are often being discriminated against and effectively deterred from entering the sector.

I put it to the house that, in our quest to push a sometimes lopsided barrel of female agendas, we seem to have overlooked one important aspect: it takes two to tango. It is both necessary and otherwise impossible for it to happen any other way than for both male and female cells to join to create a baby. Why do we then somehow move along the path of saying that children can manage through their journey of life and learning without the balance of both male and female input? Given that we are made up of both male and female, we surely need both influences, not one more than the other, to ensure a balanced and rounded development.

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