Early Childhood Conference:

Busting the myths

The conference reignites the spirit in terms of advocacy for the field.

A large audience at the Mercure Sydney busted some ridiculous myths and gained some fascinating facts during the IEU’s Early Childhood Conference in September.

Conference Convenor Tina Smith said the idea for the conference, which attracted about 150 participants, arose from the persistent myths that circulate about the sector.

In his opening address, IEU Secretary John Quessy took one of those myths head on: “One of those things we know is wrong includes comments by Federal Senator David Leyonhjelm on February this year that early childhood teachers are not real teachers but spend their time ‘wiping noses and stopping kids from killing each other”.

“This statement is an appalling belittling of the positive commitment made by those who devote their working lives to early education and care. It is ill-informed, inaccurate and insulting,” John said.

“But it points the way politicians are thinking and the way the current government is trying to take public discussion in regard to what they call ‘child care’. Both the word ‘education’ and the concept of learning have been lost from their rhetoric and their interest.”

Keynote speaker Professor Judy Atkinson presented on the way early childhood teachers assist children with development trauma.

Julia Cameron, Director Werris Creek and District Preschool, said the presentation was “really inspiring” and touched on issues that affected not only early childhood but the whole community.

Keynote Merise Bickley, Head of Early Childhood at NESA, unpacked the important facts on accreditation for the sector.

IEU Industrial Officer Michael Wright spoke of the potentially ground breaking Equal Remuneration Orders case being prosecuted by the IEU at the Fair Work Commission.

This case is based on the idea that early childhood teachers are discriminated against because they are mostly women.

“Historically, women’s work, especially when it has a caring element, has been undervalued and underpaid,” Michael said.

If the IEU wins the case, the Fair Work Commission will make equal remuneration orders which should lift wages in the sector.

Opposition Early Childhood Minister Kate Washington addressed the myth that early childhood teachers were ‘babysitters’, talking of the importance of early education to society at large, and particularly creating equality in society.

She also addressed the inadequacies of Start Strong and the problems of government planning laws in relation to the development of early childhood facilities. Her presentation can be viewed on the IEU YouTube channel: Part 1: https://youtu.be/G5OCR4DK1ZY Part 2: https://youtu.be/Qj8XgpJmv9k

Melinda Gambley, Director Clunes Preschool, said the conference provided a great opportunity for people from regional areas to network, share thoughts and plan some advocacy on behalf of the sector.

Emma Cullen, Director Abbotsford Long Day Care Centre, said the varied speakers provided different viewpoints and opened up new possibilities for teachers.

“Judy surprised me with her content which was so powerful and almost confronting, but a great way to get teachers thinking.”

“The conference reignites the spirit in terms of advocacy for the field.”

Conference workshops covered varied issues such as superannuation, yoga and mindfulness, building positive relationships with parents and children, self care and accreditation.

For in depth coverage see November issue of Bedrock.