Page 1204 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 10 April 2018

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qualified. These workers are educated and experienced. Their work is physically, intellectually and emotionally intensive, yet they are paid as low as $21 an hour.

It is for this reason that so many early childhood educators walked off the job last month. These educators took action so that they could be heard, and I would like to share with you what they had to say. Judith Kuzma said that, despite 25 years experience, with 14 of those years as her centre’s director, her income is still $25,000 per annum, less than her partner’s secondary school teacher salary. Judith said:

I know so many educators who have to supplement their income just so they can be independent and afford items of need.

Pixie Bea said that her family has had to give up their dream of owning a home because of her low income. She said:

My partner is on a disability pension, his income did not cover bills and groceries. By living extremely frugally over the previous years we had savings, so didn’t go under, but it’s heartbreaking to dip into the savings you’ve been putting aside in hopes of someday buying your own home, just to pay rent.

Rowena Muir talked about the incredibly difficult choice many in her line of work have to make. She said:

I’ve worked in the education and care profession for almost 25 years and over that time I’ve seen inspirational and dedicated individuals leave the sector because they can no longer afford to live on the low wages and the feeling of being so undervalued by society.

This includes Rowena herself, as her salary’s inability to keep up with her financial needs meant that she had to temporarily give up her job in 2008. As Pixie also said:

Leaving the industry for a better paid career … would deprive me of work I find highly rewarding, it would deprive the sector of my accumulated skills and knowledge, and it wouldn’t fix the problem for the next educator that would fill the space I’d leave behind.

Francine Horne spoke of the demanding workload that comes with being an early childhood educator, saying:

In my 20 years of working in the childcare industry, not one weekend has gone by when I haven’t had to do extra unpaid work to keep up with government expectations.

When Francine’s son decided to follow in her footsteps and become an early childhood educator she asked him not to, saying:

It’s not a job with a future at the moment.

Unfortunately, leaving the industry or reconsidering even starting in the industry are the only solutions currently offered to early childhood educators to address issues

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