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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3721 ..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

It is fair to say that for the reasons already stated employers do tend to favour the employment of women, due to equal employment opportunity policy and often an underlying fear of the school being sued should the male teacher abuse children. We also need to ensure that work force issues in the child-care industry-in particular, rates of pay, which are currently dismal-are dealt with as a priority.

Concerns have been raised with me, in particular, in regard to community perception surrounding the involvement of males in the early child-care industry. I would like to briefly outline some of those key issues. They include society as a whole being cautious as to who will look after their children-a natural concern. Men are too readily being stigmatised, negatively labelled and marginalised in our society as sex fiends, paedophiles and so on.

I believe that there is a great amount of discrimination against males entering this sector. Of course, sometimes it is right to discriminate, but men and young guys have a lot to offer in the raising of children within the family unit and should not be deprived of following this career pathway.

I had the pleasure recently of visiting a local child-care centre-Jellybeans at Isaacs. It is a centre-based child-care centre. They are fortunate, one of very few in the ACT, to have a couple of males working there. A young guy there teaches the little ones computer stuff and the director's son joins in to lend a helping hand, from maintenance to gardening to playing with the children.

Children who are from single-parent families, often with the mother raising the child, need male role models-the balance in life and all that.

Ms Gallagher: Says who?

MRS BURKE: This point has been made to me recently, particularly by mothers who are single parents with boys. I heard Ms Gallagher interject, "Says who?"To me, it makes sense that people are brought up with a balance in life. That is how we were created; that is how we were made. I am just going on the evidence I have read and the evidence that has been given.

I have looked at some New Zealand experiences on this issue; in particular, an article by Sarah Farquhar published in the Otago Daily Times in New Zealand on 4 August 1999 and titled "The Male Teacher Debate". This research on men in early childhood teaching was published nationally in 1997.

She identified fear of accusation of sex abuse and the social stigma attached to being a man in a women's field as leading factors scaring men off becoming teachers. In a subsequent paper, Ms Farquhar also proposed that these factors were probably causes for the decline of men's participation in primary teaching and questioned whether the teaching profession should be allowed to continue its movement towards becoming a women-only profession.

We have now travelled down a very dangerous road. I believe that the writing is on the wall. We should do something to redress the situation and turn the tide. It is tantamount

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