The influence of early childhood education and care cannot be overstated – it is transformational. Children who receive high-quality education in their earliest years do better in school and at work, grow up heathier and happier, and lead more fulfilling lives. 

But across Australia, particularly in regional Australia, the early childhood education and care system is struggling. 

As I visit early childhood education and care centres across my electorate, they all tell me the same story: they struggle to recruit, train, and retain enough staff to meet community demand.  

In Wangaratta and Wodonga, there are 0.4 places per child. That’s less than half the needed places. In places like Corryong, this can drop as low as 0.2 places per child. This means four in five children will miss out on childcare in their local community.  

Families are forced to wait for months or years on wait lists or take extreme measures to access childcare.  

Take Megan Callus, from Laceby in my electorate. Megan has been waiting more than two years for a childcare place to become available at her nearest centre in Wangaratta. In the meantime, she’s forced to drive her daughter to Benalla – an hour round trip, twice a day – requiring extra time and cost. 

When parents can’t access childcare, it is disproportionately women who will leave the workforce to provide that care. This reinforces the gender pay gap and makes it harder for women to balance motherhood and work.  

Study after study show there is a direct correlation between the accessibility of childcare and workforce participation of mothers with a child under aged under five years. We also know that there is enormous untapped economic potential from getting more parents into the workforce. Even conservative estimates put this in the billions of dollars per year. 

This is why I’m working to tackle childcare shortages across regional Australia, including in Indi. 

This month I will be hosting two playdate events in Wodonga and Wangaratta with The Parenthood, one of Australia’s leading advocacy groups on early childhood education and care.  

I want to hear from parents and families in my electorate about what childcare shortages mean for them. To understand the impacts and challenges as I work for solutions. 

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