Delegates are diamonds

Meet the dedicated ambassadors who joined us for our forum and preschools campaign lauch on 5 April

Michelle Thompson

IEU Vice President Early Childhood Services

Shore Preparatory Preschool Early Learning Centre

“The teacher shortage right now in our preschools is at breaking point and we need change urgently.”

Bridget Isichei

Byron Bay Preschool

President, Northern Rivers Preschool Alliance

“Supported bargaining has been on the Alliance’s radar for some time and we were thrilled the IEU is taking up the case on behalf of preschool teachers. We are aware that joint enterprise bargaining is happening in long day care, and aged care just got a pay increase. Preschool teachers working for government preschools are getting pay equity with school teachers, so we are afraid community preschools will disappear. We are advocating for community preschools where they always put children first and offer the highest quality of care, so we want them to survive. We don’t want to lose all our teachers to the public system. We are happy the IEU has stepped up and is doing something about it.”

Tia Garrett

Bellingen Community Preschool

“Our enterprise agreement is up for renewal, and we’re really conscious of paying teachers adequately and aligning our wages with those of teachers in schools. We’re also thinking about the NSW government’s new public preschools announcement and how those teachers will be paid the same as school teachers in that system, so we will be losing teachers from our community preschools into that sector. I’d like to see early childhood teachers acknowledged and valued for the work they do, and a lightening of the workload because it’s quite crippling. I’ve been in early childhood education for 16 years but I’m already thinking about my exit strategy because this isn’t sustainable. I am wondering if I should look at working in a school because in my small service, I’m the teacher and the educational leader, and probably like all of you, I do all of the things. How is this sustainable?”

Stephen Gallen

Cawongla Playhouse Community Preschool

“Early childhood education and care is endemically undervalued in the community. Any opportunity to advocate, to raise our profile is good, but particularly in the context of what’s happening with long day care and public preschools. Community-based preschools are under threat, so it’s important that we fight and advocate strongly for increased wages to retain this amazing sector. Strong and vibrant community-based preschools have a long history in NSW. It’s incredibly precious in terms of the relationships, the fact that it’s community run, many for 50 years or more. The rollout of new government preschools, which is a wonderful initiative, is likely to cause the community-based sector to lose a lot of our experienced teachers. We already have problems with recruitment and long-running staff shortages. I would like to see early childhood teachers in community-based preschools getting pay parity with government preschools and with a similar result in long day care. The IEU campaign is a really important plank in maintaining vibrant and high-quality community preschools.”

Meg Lockley

Lawson Community Preschool

“There’s a big issue around pay equity and the different roles that teachers and educators undertake. The role of educational leader is very fluid. Things can be lost and gained and I’m hoping today’s forum is where things can be gained. If there’s a model in Victoria (see p5) that works why not get that enterprise agreement here? This campaign, uniting with others, getting them enthused, gives us positive power.”

Melinda Gambley

Clunes Community Preschool

“I’ve been working in this sector for a long time and I’ve seen a slow deterioration in the workforce – a staff shortage and pressures on staff. We are in crisis. We’re desperate now and we have to do something about it. I’d like to see the state government support community preschools. Other sectors get support from other places, but it’s really up to the state government to support us because there is no one else. So I’d really love to see some conversations around that. We’re not starting from scratch. There’s a good precedent in Victoria (see p5) that we can copy. This gives us hope and optimism.”

Meredith Wakeman

Gumnut Village Preschool Wollongong

“I’d like to see some recognition of the complexity that the department keeps pushing down on top of us, which makes our job so difficult. The number of different roles that we have to take on without support isn’t realistic at all.”

Tash Smith

East LindfieldCommunity Preschool

“I am worried about the future. We don’t have enough students coming through the system who want to work in community preschools. Once my generation is finished, who will replace us? I’m just hoping we can lift our pay. We’re doing a very important job that is different to primary schools but just as vital and just as much hard work, so we need equal pay with school teachers.”

Margaret Gleeson

Keiraville Community Preschool

“I believe we all have a responsibility to advocate for a professional wage for early childhood teachers and for appropriate working conditions, and I want the government to listen to the voices that have been calling on them for years and years and take some action on our behalf. I’d like to see state-funded wages for teachers and a reduction in the ridiculous levels of red tape and paperwork that take teachers away from the children.”

Philippa Maher

Valla Community Preschool

“We need better pay and conditions in preschools. We have a workforce crisis and we won’t sustain good quality early childhood teachers if we don’t show that they really matter. It needs to start with better pay. I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years in early childhood. I would say workload intensification keeps us so busy and so distracted with so much work that there’s no time to advocate and to collectively get together. You either get out, or you collectively get together and do something about it.”

Janene Rox

Cronulla Preschool

“This is an opportunity to be part of the amazing next stage in our sector. There’s lots of different ways to be part of the process. You can be loud and proud or quietly sharing in the background. Everyone can get involved.”

Hannah Parkinson

Birrahlee Preschool Lane Cove

“I’ve been a teacher for 27 years. We’re calling for pay parity with school teachers and recognition of the importance of early childhood teaching and learning. That’s it. We need recognition through pay parity with school teachers.”

Raelee Smith

Muswellbrook Preschool Kindergarten

“I want us to work together to achieve equity for preschool staff compared with teachers in schools. Not just wages, but also the conditions and the challenges around being able to attract and keep staff in our area. And training. There are a lot of competing industries where once upon a time it was near impossible to get a job in our particular service, but now it’s hard to get educators because they’re competing with mining wages and other industries in our area. We’re losing people to go and drive trucks in the mines because the pay is just so much higher. They want to buy a home, but in our sector, it’s not achievable, so they don’t see a future in preschools. We need pay parity with teachers in schools. We need to think about the work environment in the future – we may not benefit, but we are creating a legacy.”

Brenda Jones

HopePoint Preschool Georges Hall

“I want to learn what I can do to support the cause. It’s my first time doing something like this.”

Compiled by

Katie Camarena Photos

Monica Crouch Journalist

Lucy Meyer Journalist

Sue Osborne Journalist