Robin gives young children a place in the world

Early childhood teacher Robin Hurst is such an icon at Bathurst SDN they’ve named a room after her. A fixture at the centre for more than 40 years, her legacy will live on long after her retirement, with children playing in the ‘Robin Room’.

Robin still has her letter of appointment from 1975 which she shared with Newsmonth. Despite the letter warning her she would have to resign upon becoming pregnant, Robin said the respect and conditions afforded to early childhood teachers have deteriorated since those days.

She said the six-and-a-half-hour day offered in the letter was a bonus that has long since disappeared.

In the 1970s, the Whitlam Government viewed early childhood teachers as the same as school teachers, and their hours and pay were equivalent.

In fact, to be employed in early childhood, Robin was required to complete a further two years of study on top of her Teaching Diploma from Bathurst Teachers’ College.

However, in the 1980s, society’s attitude began to change, so that early childhood teachers began to be seen as ‘babysitters’. Long day care was considered child-minding rather than education.

The introduction of TAFE qualified educators in the 1980s was also a time of great challenge for early childhood teachers, when their role and position within centres became unclear.

A 40-year IEU member, Robin said she been grateful for the IEU’s efforts over the years to try and reverse this tide. The recent win in the Fair Work Commission, providing a pay rise for some teachers, which she described as a step in the right direction.

Robin was one of the first people in the early childhood field to win the right to work in a job share role while she was raising her young family, a deal that was brokered with the help of the IEU.

The IEU also helped her get paid for supervising practicum teachers from Charles Sturt University.

“I want to thank the union for sticking with us for all those years,” she said.

Her passion for young children and their education has never waned. She still soaks up publications such as Bedrock and she has attended numerous IEU early childhood conferences.

“It’s great that the IEU makes available workshops for early childhood teachers, these are not always easy to access,” she said.

Having spent some time travelling the country visiting centres for the National Child Care Accreditation Council, she loves to share what she has learnt with others.

She also visited the Reggio Emilia centres in Italy and introduced Reggio Emilia practice to Bathurst SDN.

With seven children of her own and 18 grandchildren, not to mention the thousands that have benefitted for her care over the years, Robin now sees herself as a grandmother to all.

She still works as a relief teacher at SDN Bathurst, coming in when needed to fill a gap.

Her fervent hope is that times will change, and the attitudes towards early childhood education that were prevalent when she began her career nearly half a century ago will come back into vogue.

Sue Osborne