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Big Hopes for Little People

Hundreds of early educators are uniting with their children and families on Saturday for National Big Steps Day, to support the push for professional wages. 

They will be joined by their most ardent supporters – the parents of children in their care – during a fun-filled family fiesta at Northbridge Piazza featuring live children’s entertainment, a bouncy castle and arts and craft activities.
The event is being run in tangent with similar events in other capital cities around Australia with the message of securing government-funded professional pay for our early childhood educators.
Kerry Pelajic, director of RELAC, is overwhelmed by the support from parents for National Big Steps Day, which is part of the Big Steps campaign.
“We’ve got over 100 people from our centre coming down on Saturday,” Kerry said. “Parents entrust us with the care of the most precious part of their lives and it’s great to know they’re behind us 100%.”
Current wages are simply “demoralising”, Kerry says – and they’re causing the industry to lose an astounding 180 workers each week. “Our staff turnover is about 50%. People don’t want to leave the industry, but the wages just aren’t sustainable. They may be OK when you leave school and it’s your first pay packet, but as our staff members get older and realise what other people are getting paid, or if they need a car, or it’s time to take on a mortgage, it’s too tough,” she said.
“We’d love to see more men in the industry too, but how is it possible to be a breadwinner and raise a family on these wages? It’s not. Staff members inevitably use the job as a stepping stone to move on to other things.
“The wages don’t invite professional calibre and it’s the children who will miss out.”
Acting Assistant Secretary Amber-Jade Sanderson of United Voice, the Childcare Union, says the loss of staff is disruptive and upsetting for children and parents, as well as distressing to the staff members.
“Every week these miserable wages are forcing over 180 educators out of jobs they love. These children should not be repeatedly losing quality educators they have come to know and trust – it’s putting their intellectual, emotional and social development at risk. Research shows early childhood is the most crucial time in the education of children and that they need to forge bonds with their educators in order to get the best start in life,” Ms Sanderson said.
Kerry expects that high turnover of staff will be a thing of the past if they start receiving the professional recognition and wages they deserve. She cites a recent annual end-of-year concert extravaganza staged by the three and four-year-olds at her centre as a prime example of the calibre of care children now receive from early educators. As the children sang songs and performed plays with all the passion and vigour of Broadway stars, their parents watched on, astounded. 
“The mums and dads were amazed by what they were doing,” laughed Kerry. 
“We’re not babysitters or crèche workers, we’re educating children. Every child is observed individually, and all our programs are individualised. It’s time we received professional recognition for what is expected of us and what we deliver.”
Come along and show your support:
17th November 10-12noon
Northbridge Piazza, James Street.