I’m an early childhood educator, and I’ve had enough
TWO years ago, I heard someone liken the need and importance of my profession to that of a carpark; a place for parents to park their children while they went about their day.
I had to force myself to bite back what I would have liked to have said in response because, sadly, this kind of misconception is a common experience for the professionals working in early childhood education and care.
I am tired of this. I'm tired of not being recognised as a leader for our youngest generation. I'm tired of the children that I educate, inspire and laugh with being treated as a commodity.
I'm tired of being consistently devalued, pigeonholed and trodden on because of the inaccurate, uninformed perceptions that this government has about the early childhood and education sector.
I am not alone in this rage. It is this fire that is the fuel for the hardworking, passionate and loving educators of Australia to stand up stronger than ever in our national action next week on September 5.
After years of fighting for professional recognition and pay equity, early childhood educators have had enough.
As early education specialists, we start where it counts the most. We start with our smallest citizens, our smallest decision makers - our children.
The country entrusts us with shaping, loving, guiding and moulding our most precious resource and we, as a professional sector, treat that trust with integrity and passion.
This immense responsibility warrants a professional wage. Not $22.04 an hour.
The research detailing the developmental significance of a child's formative years could fill Parliament House.
It is uncontested that 90 per cent of a child's brain is formed by the age of five. It is uncontested that access to quality early education sets children up for lifelong success and wellbeing.
So, why is the value of the dedicated professionals that make this possible still being contested? Why is the dollar figure value that these educators earn only half of Australia's national average wage?
It is time for qualification-based pay equity for early childhood educators to become law.
It is time for pay parity with other equally qualified professionals in other sectors. It is time to address the gender pay gap plaguing a feminised workforce. It is time that we had a responsible Government to make this happen.
On Wednesday next week, educators will walk off and scream from the top of our lungs that we will no longer stand for this pay injustice. We are not glorified babysitters. We are not a collection of "nice ladies".
We are a collective of empowered education professionals - and it's time the government treated us as such.
Gwendolyn Alcock is an early childhood educator working in Sydney, and will be participating in the countrywide walk off on Wednesday, September 5, to fight for professional pay.