I am at the mercy of my one-year-old daughter's childcare centre. I work four days a week, her dad works more and every week we wait in anxious anticipation, hoping one of her classmates has gotten sick so we can take their place for the day. So that's....not nice.
I know this feeling isn't unique to our family. Across regional Australia families are struggling to get their children into childcare centres so one parent, mainly mum, can go back to work.
You might have believed that childcare was a hot topic at the budget announcement, and you're not wrong, but the promise is to increase childcare subsidies, making the daily rate more affordable. Which would be really great, if you lived in a city.
But there's no point having an increased subsidy in regional and rural Australia when there is no place for the child to go.
If I can't get childcare for my daughter, I have to make a quick decision to pack up her and my two dogs and drive over 300 kilometres to my parents' house so they can care for her. This decision is normally made very early in the morning or late at night. Fortunately, my parents are able to care for their grandchild and fortunately my work is flexible with location. Unfortunately my daughter does not respond well to being out of routine, especially at bed time.
As more and more families race to the regions further strain will be put on the education system. Forcing young professionals, mostly women, out of work. Or alternatively, as in my case, forcing new retirees back into the work of childcare, even if it is for a particularly cute 14 month-old.
So, to help this slightly frazzled, professional, newish-mum, maybe the government could be looking at ways to support the system starting from the ground up. Whether it's helping to build more centres for good quality education or helping upskill educators.
Believe me when I say this young family wants to stay out in the bush, but at the moment it feels as if our hands are tied.
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