Canberra parents are paying more for childcare than the rest of Australia, new figures show.
In March this year, before COVID hit, the national average payment for childcare was $10 per hour, but in the ACT it was $11.30.
It means a Canberra family with a child in daycare 40 hours a week is paying $52 a week more per child than the national average.
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment's March quarter report revealed the average hourly rate for childcare providers increased by 4.7 per cent on the previous year's figures, just as the nation began initial coronavirus restrictions.
The ACT took out the top spot for hourly rates for the more than 32,000 children using childcare during the year. The Northern Territory and Queensland recorded the lowest average hourly rates at $9.05 and $9.15 while Victoria and Western Australia followed the ACT with rates of $10.50 and $10.30 respectively.
Amanda Tobler, the co-chair of ACT early education advocacy group Children First Alliance, said the majority of these rates were going toward the wages of educators and that the increase was expected.
Instead, Ms Tobler said the affordability aspect needed to be looked at from a public policy perspective.
The recent federal budget announcement was criticised for leaving out any additional support for childcare and early education. It's something Ms Tobler said needed to be fixed, especially after the COVID-19 subsidies had been removed.
"We are disappointed that we weren't mentioned, or that there's been no additional subsidies, in the federal budget," Ms Tobler said.
"We've been working with and campaigning the major parties here in the ACT about the need for professional development for our educators, that we need to ensure that all families can access early education and care and that we would not want things like transport to be barrier for them to be able to access it."
In March, the federal government announced it would provide free childcare to all Australians from April, temporarily moving away from the existing subsidies system.
The return of the subsidies system In July, while Australians continue to face job and financial insecurity, has meant some parents are doing it tougher than before.
ACT Council of Social Service chief executive Dr Emma Campbell said it was important to ensure access was provided to all, especially those struggling to afford it.
"Investment in childcare, including universal access and workforce development, is good for children, families, and women - who are most likely to be financially compelled to choose caring over work, and who are the overwhelming majority of childcare workers," Dr Campbell said.
"Research by the Australia Institute shows that investment in childcare pays for itself by allowing more women to work and by creating jobs in the childcare sector. This leads to economic growth and increased contributions via taxation."
Part of the problem, Ms Tobler suggested, was that there was still a misunderstanding among the community about how important early education is for the country's future. Addressing this was key to influencing legislators and policymakers.
"Early education care is about education. It's about learning, it's about setting children up for the best opportunities for their ongoing life and for every dollar that we spend in early education and care, we save $7," Ms Tobler said.
"I think we need the community to understand that and I think through that understanding, then governments, and certainly the federal government, will hopefully then see the value and appropriately fund services and the system"