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Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, Director Early Education, United Workers Union:

“United Workers Union welcomes today’s announcement by the Victorian Government for a better future for early learning in Victoria.

“The fifty early learning centres committed to by the State Government mean great quality early education will be delivered on school grounds to Victorian children. These new centres will be built in Victorian areas that need them most, and run directly by the State Government – not for profit.

“Educators will be directly employed by the government, providing stable, well supported jobs for thousands of educators and a commitment to quality. This is a huge step in cutting out private profiteering in the sector, and provides a new model that other states should look to adopt to provide the best early learning outcomes for all children.

“The Government’s new workforce initiatives demonstrate that the Victorian government continues to lead the way in supporting and valuing the important role that educators play in young lives and in shaping our future.

“UWU members believe that every child deserves quality early education. By introducing legislation to protect access to 3-year-old kinder, and by forging the way in delivering fifty state-run centres, the Victorian Government is investing in children, educators and families.”



Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]


On October 12 there was an historic meeting of unions, employers, educators and peak bodies from across the early education sector co-ordinated by Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and the United Workers Union.

Reprsentatives from every part of the early childhood education sector unanimously issued the following statement:

This meeting unanimously agreed that we are facing an enormous workforce crisis that needs urgent action. Early childhood education and care has been undervalued and low wages are a major contributor to the current workforce crisis – it is long past time for action.

The meeting also noted that the ambitious agenda of the new federal government in early education was dependent on stabilising the enormous workforce turnover and addressing the chronic shortages nationwide in time for the sector to implement proposed reforms to the Child Care Subsidy taking effect next July because it will create extra demand for places from working parents.

After robust discussions, we committed to work together to develop sustainable solutions that respect and value early educators and drive up their wages.  The sector has heard the call from government to collaborate. We discussed the government’s proposal to open up multi-employer bargaining and their clear indication that this style of bargaining may provide a pathway for early education to lift wages. Other alternatives were also canvassed and the diverse needs and circumstances of all care types considered.

We have committed to meet again in four weeks to explore options including multi-employer bargaining and plot out timelines and processes. It is essential that this meeting includes the primary funder of early education, the federal government, and we look forward to engaging with them.


Quotes attributable to Tamika, early childhood educator:

“The Summit brought together leaders in our sector from all across the country all having the important conversation about our profession and the value of educators.

“Everyone was on the same page which made us really hopeful and optimistic. We are looking at exciting new and different ways to achieve the sector that all children and educators deserve.

“It really feels like there is momentum and this is an opportunity which I’ve never seen before. Everyone who was in the room agreed to meet again in four weeks’ time, and it was great to see everyone in the same room working together for a better sector.”


Participating organisations included:

  • United Workers Union
  • Early Childhood Australia
  • SNAICC – Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care
  • Goodstart Early Learning
  • G8 Education
  • C&K
  • Child Australia
  • KU Children’s Services
  • Independent Education Union
  • Australian Education Union
  • Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA)
  • Community Connections Solutions Australia (CCSA)
  • Family Day Care Australia (FDC)
  • Community Early Learning Australia (CELA)
  • Community Child Care Association (CCCS)
  • National Outside School Hours Services Alliance (NOSHSA)




UWU Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]

ECA Media Contact: Reshma Jayesh, 0475 554 999, [email protected]


United Workers Union members in early education have a clear message for this week’s Jobs Summit: deliver real change for undervalued educators now, because there is no early education without us.

UWU Director of Early Education, Helen Gibbons, said that union members had voiced concerns that the Summit may not commit to the extent of reform required to fix the staffing crisis in early learning.

A survey of educators just this week showed the crisis is urgent and growing:

  • 88% of educators said that if nothing changes, the sector does not offer them a long term future.
  • 98.5% of educators said that the staffing shortages in early education are impacting the quality of care and education children receive.
  • Over 99% of educators said that workload and staffing issues in the sector are making educators feel burnt out and undervalued.

Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, Director Early Education, United Workers Union:

“The results are in – educators cannot afford to stay in the sector, and the sector cannot deliver quality early learning without educators. We need real reform now.

“This is why educators are closing centres and taking to the streets all across the country next week on September 7th. They are demanding action.

“Early education is still facing an ever-worsening staffing crisis due to unmanageable workloads, stress and low wages. 81% of centre directors say they have had difficulties in attracting and recruiting staff.

“We know that all around the country, services are being forced to cap enrolments or close rooms because they simply cannot stem the tide of fed-up educators leaving the sector every day.

“UWU members’ vision is for a sector where educators’ vital work is valued with professional wages and working conditions, and where early education is recognised as part of the education sector.

“Children and families deserve a truly high quality early learning system that is universally accessible to all children and families regardless of where they live or what kind of background they come from. This future is only possible with well-paid, professionally-supported educators who are respected for vital work that they do.”

Educators who responded to the survey said:

  • The lack of staffing means I end up doing unpaid work at home to try to keep up when my planning time is always being taken off me, this is unfair to myself and the children I plan for.
  • I’ve been an early childhood educator for over 25 years and I’m now looking for another job not in child care as I’m so burnt out and over everything else I don’t feel the quality of care is there anymore as I have so much paperwork we are just getting through the day.
  • We have always been taken for granted, and after all that we went through during covid and all its implications where we were essential, we still are not recognised for what we did. We’re so tired of being undervalued, underpaid, and overworked, we are over our profession.
  • We are professionals working ridiculously long hours for little pay. We steal things from home for our under-resourced centres and we are exhausted.
  • Government needs to stand and stop providers profiting of Australia children and early educators or we will have no strong economy in the future.
  • With the cost of living rising, educators are leaving every day , as it is near impossible to survive on the wages we receive. After over 20 years in the industry, I’ve lost my mojo , mostly to the pay but also educators well-being.


Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]


The announcement yesterday of G8’s next chief executive has highlighted the profit-driven culture of early learning in Australia.

G8 is the largest for-profit provider in the country. Yesterday G8 CEO Gary Carroll announced his resignation, and reports have identified his replacement as Pejman Okhovat, head of discount store chain Big W. When Mr Okhovat moves to G8, his base pay will be $950,000 but including bonuses could become up to $2.6 million per year.

Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, Director Early Education, United Workers Union:

“Appointing a retail executive to run early learning services is not only laughable, it’s dangerous.

“No one would make the ex CEO of Big W the principal of school, in charge of school-aged children. Why then are we allowing the same person to run one of the largest providers of early learning in the country, to be responsible for the first five years of growth and development of hundreds of thousands of children?

“A $2.6 million salary is even more obscene when educators earn as little as $24 an hour, and G8 has a documented history of underpaying educators even their basic legal entitlements.

“The fact that this is even possible shows how broken our current early learning system is.

“Early learning providers too often prioritise profits over children. No one should be making obscene profits out of the education of our youngest children.

“This is why educators everywhere are taking action on September 7, and shutting down the early learning sector to fight for real reform.

“It’s time to reform the early learning sector for good!”




Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]


Yesterday hundreds of member leaders from all across the country came together and voted to take historic action to address the crisis in early education.

Educators are leaving the sector in record numbers every week, due to burn-out, workload and low pay. Centres across the country are having to limit enrolments, close rooms and cancel staff leave. Children and families are suffering due to the strain.

After nearly a decade of inaction on early learning, educators have had enough!

Yesterday’s meeting was just the start. Educators are talking to each other all over the country and building a nationwide action!

United Workers Union members are calling for the new Federal Government to urgently outline a plan and timeline to deliver on 3 key priorities:

  • Give us a reason to stay & pay us what we are worth,
  • Value early learning as part of the education system, just as important as schools, and
  • Put children before profit.

It’s time to reform the early learning sector for good!

On Early Childhood Educators Day on September 7, educators everywhere are going to take national action, shut down the early learning sector and take to the streets!

Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, Director Early Education, United Workers Union:

“Educators are sick of being stuck. After nearly a decade of inaction the new Federal Government needs to commit to an urgent plan to fix the early education sector.

“UWU members’ vision is for a sector where educators’ vital work is valued with professional wages and working conditions, and where early education is recognised for its vital role in children’s development.

“The only way out of the crisis in early learning is real reform that respects educators.”



Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]



Today the United Workers Union and the Australian Education Union jointly called on the Federal Government and National Cabinet to take five critical steps to protect the young children who attend early education and the educators who care for them.

  • Early educators to be nationally defined and recognised as frontline essential workers.
  • Early educators should have priority access to PCR testing if required. Rapid Antigen Tests to be free and accessible for all educators, with clear and consistent testing, tracking and isolating protocols and procedures to manage staff shortages.
  • The definition of close contacts must include exposure at work as well as home. Educators need to be financially supported to isolate.
  • Centres that need to close for periods because of staff shortages to have access to financial support.
  • As frontline essential workers, early educators to have priority access to vaccine booster appointments.

Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, Director Early Education, United Workers Union

“As the omicron variant sweeps through Australia early education is incredibly vulnerable.

“Little children under five cannot yet be vaccinated. As a community, we need to do everything we can to protect them and the people that surround them, that’s why we’re asking the Federal Government and National Cabinet to take urgent action on these five critical support measures.

“Educators are being frequently exposed to infection but have little support to get tested or to isolate. The sector relies heavily on casual workers, but these educators face financial insecurity and enormous pressure to return to work, potentially putting themselves and the community at risk.

“Rules about exposure and isolation are inconsistently applied across the country and often centre directors are having to make decisions that should be clearly guided by public health.

“Centres face losing government funding if they close because they can’t find enough staff. The pressure on centres to stay open is enormous and places children at risk.

“This is a further reminder that the current early education system is not fit for purpose and needs urgent reform. Early educators are doing their part. For nearly two years they have kept centres open and kept children safe. They need help.

“Without a clear and consistent national plan for early education and to keep centres open, educators, families and businesses already struggling with a national workforce crisis will suffer.”

The United Workers Union is the union for Early Childhood Education and Care.


Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]



WHEN: 10am Monday, 29 November 2021

WHERE: Front lawns of Parliament House, Canberra

WHAT: UWU is releasing a shocking report exposing the financial practices of for-profit providers in Australia. Early childhood educators are calling for more transparency to stop private providers putting profits before children. Dynamic visuals of educators in front of Parliament House and interviews.

Today the United Workers Union (UWU) has released a ground-breaking report exposing how private for-profit early education providers are siphoning off money that should be invested in children to fund lavish lifestyles and transfer profits out of the country.

The report “Spitting off cash” – Where does all the money go in Australia’s early learning sector? finds:

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars are distributed annually to shareholders and CEO salaries can top $1 million.
  • 20% of revenue through Australia’s 8,300 long day centres -$1.7 billion per year – is collected by five large companies, three of which are based offshore. Parents may be surprised to learn that their local early learning centre is controlled by Swiss bankers or an American private equity behemoth.
  • Despite receiving generous COVID relief payments and availing themselves of JobKeeper, four of the six largest for-profit ECEC providers paid no tax in 2020.
  • There is a race on to buy up big, with five big and growing companies – G8, Affinity, Guardian, Busy Bees and Only About Children – already accounting for 20 per cent of highly profitable long day care centre revenue.
  • An economic model characterised by secure government subsidies and low wages for educators has created an elite of super rich ECEC owners, financiers and executives.
  • Financialisation of ECEC has seen the worst excesses of Australian corporate culture including wage theft, aggressive tax avoidance and other misconduct creep into the sector.


Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, United Workers Union Early Education Director:

The early education sector desperately needs more transparency and financial regulation.

Australians rightly expect that their tax dollars should fund quality early education and fair wages for educators, not million dollar CEO salaries, transfers to tax havens and Lamborghinis.

Parents would be horrified to learn that this creeping commercialisation comes at the cost of quality care and education for their children and an underpaid and undervalued workforce of educators. For profit services are more likely to be understaffed, to fail to meet quality standards and to commit safety breaches.

Private early education companies are enriching their owners and executives at the expense of the care provided to children and the wages and wellbeing of employees.

CEOs pocket eyewatering salaries and owners enjoy windfall profits. Companies change hands regularly. Many providers are owned by private equity funds. There are multimillion dollar transfer payments to overseas headquarters while no tax is paid in Australia.

Parents and taxpayers have a right to know how their fees and public funding is being spent – not on quality early learning for their children, but on obscene salaries, payouts and profit margins of overseas companies.

If the Federal Government continues to wash their hands of responsibility for the way in which child care subsidies are used, they are endorsing a model which sees parents and taxpayers paying for super-yachts instead of education.

United Workers Union calls on the Federal Government to stop the private sector from profiting off our children and:

  • Make what really happens in early education transparent by requiring every business to publish their profit and how much tax they pay because parents and taxpayers have a right to know;
  • Cut the fat cats out of early education by investing in not-for-profit and public provision; and
  • Regulate how much profit you can take out of early education to ensure taxpayers’ money goes to supporting little children and their educators, and not obscene profits.


The largest for-profit providers in Australia: some key facts

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is big business. The sector turns over $14 billion annually across 16,000 centres in Australia, and receives $11 billion per annum in public funding. 80% of sector revenue flows from Government. This guaranteed flow of ‘child-care’ subsidies has made the sector attractive to large financial interests who are taking control of long day care, the most lucrative part of the sector.

G8 Education is Australia’s largest for-profit long day care provider. G8 is listed on the ASX and has turnover of close to a billion dollars. It distributes tens of millions of dollars to shareholders annually.

Last December it was revealed G8 had systematically underpaid thousands of its educators over the previous six years. This theft, affecting 27,000 current and former employees, is estimated to total $80 million. In stark contrast to the low wages it pays its hardworking staff, G8 executives are showered with exorbitant salaries and benefits (see Table 4). CEO Gary Carroll has come close to earning a million dollars in recent years.

Think CEO Matthew Edwards recently made $44 million selling his shares when Busy Bees acquired Think.

Busy Bees is a British-based international for-profit ECEC company currently in talks to acquire another 11 centres owned by WA provider Little People’s Place. Little People’s Place is owned by Vijay and Phyllis Narula and estimated to be worth $40 million. Last year Vijay bought Phyllis a $400,000 Lamborghini Urus and the couple enjoy flaunting their wealth around Perth.

Affinity Education Group is owned by Quadrant, one of Australia’s largest private equity firms, which paid $650 million to acquire the business from Anchorage Capital Partners in June 2021. This represented a tripling in value, six years after Anchorage paid $213 million to take the company off the ASX. During this period Affinity posted some of the lowest quality ratings in the sector and allocated one of the lowest shares of revenue to wages (54% in 2019). In 2020 its Chairman Chris Hadley sold his three-storey house in Mosman on Sydney’s lower north shore, to the company’s Managing Partner Marcus Darville for $10.9 million.

Only About Children is owned by American private equity giant Bain Capital. Bain bought OAC in 2016 for what is thought to be about $400 million from the company’s founder Brendan McAssey. The structuring of Bain’s ownership, it is reported, has left OAC highly leveraged with $220 million in debt, ten times its earnings. In the financial year ending June 2020, despite operating at a profit, OAC ultimately declared a loss of $116 million and paid no tax in Australia.

Guardian Childcare and Education was bought by Swiss-based global private equity investors Partners Group for $440 million in 2016 from Malaysia-based Navis Capital. Guardian in Australia is controlled by a Zeuss Childcare registered in London as part of a group structure involving Scottish limited partnerships, a form of ownership criticised for lack of transparency and facilitation of tax avoidance and money laundering.

Mayfield Childcare’s financial reports illustrate the substantial amounts of money that can be generated off a moderate number of day care centres. In the years prior to the COVID disruption, Mayfield paid dividends of eight to nine cents to holders of its 31 million shares. This represented distributions of up to 2.8 million dollars per year.

Child care real estate is touted by some financial analysts as where the real money in the ECEC sector is made. Profit figures for real estate investment trusts (REITs) specialising in ‘childcare’ listed on the Australian Stock Exchange back this view up. Ultimately, the megaprofits and salaries being made through these REITs flow from Australian taxpayers through the Child Care Subsidy (CCS).



ENDS Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]



Today the United Workers Union (UWU) has released a report outlining the failure of for-profit childcare providers to keep Australian children safe.

The report draws from previously unseen data obtained through freedom of information requests all over Australia. This data reveals what many in the sector have believed for a long time: that for-profit providers deliver poorer safety and lower quality early learning compared to the not-for-profit sector.

The report Unsafe and non-compliant: Profits above safety in Australia’s early learning sector found:

  • Non-compliance, which represents breaches of a range of minimum safety standards, is far more common among for-profit providers than any other type of service. From just over 12,000 enforcement actions taken nationally against early education providers since 2015, an overwhelming 74% involved for-profit centres, despite the for-profit segment making up only half of the sector.
  • For-profits are also the worst-performing type of service when it comes to ensuring quality education and care for Australian children. For-profit providers have the highest number of centres that don’t meet the national standard, with more than one in six (over 1200) centres failing to meet the National Quality Standard.
  • For-profit long day care centres are twice as likely to be rated as not meeting the national quality standards than not-for-profit centres.
  • The three biggest for-profit LDC providers in the country are G8, Affinity and Busy Bees. The poorer quality ratings of these three players epitomise the crisis in the sector. Collectively they had seven times the number of centres rated ‘Working towards NQS’, by percentage, when compared with the three largest not-for-profit providers Goodstart, C&K and KU.
  • Information about a centre’s track record on safety, compliance issues and enforcement actions are almost impossible for parents and the public to find.


Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, Director Early Education, United Workers Union

“Parents in Australia pay some of the highest out-of-pocket costs in the OECD, and have fair expectations of a safe environment for their children. These results should be alarming for parents accessing for-profit services across the country.

“Parents should expect to be informed about the safety track record of their children’s centre. That’s just not happening right now.

“For-profits have a demonstrated history of poorer safety and lower quality outcomes than the not-for-profit sector but many parents have no idea and no way to easily access this information.

“That’s why UWU is calling for greater transparency around safety and quality for every centre, not only to help parents make choices about where they send their children, but to motivate providers to prioritise safety and quality over profits.”


Quotes attributable to Natasha, Sydney parent

“I have two children, 10 and 7yo. I work full time and I’ve experienced the full range of service types. When you are in the middle of returning to work and trying to juggle family life and find a spot for your child, you don’t always have the capacity and experience to find all the information.

“One centre we attended had a great reputation as a not-for-profit service. The educators really wanted to educate and care for my children. But the centre was then bought out by a private for-profit provider, and in my opinion is now only about profit.

“While the for-profit providers can seem shiny and new, with photos of celebrity chefs on the walls, this doesn’t mean better outcomes.

“It’s been a rollercoaster but eventually I chose to enrol my children at a local not-for-profit provider for more social connection and play based learning, which is what mattered to us as a family. This has been the best place for my children.

“At my child’s not-for-profit centre, the facilities are more well-loved and less shiny, but the educators are more experienced. They have better working conditions and are passionate about what they do. They have longer tenure because turnover isn’t as high.

“Looking back, my experience means I would look for different things when choosing a centre because I know more.”



Quotes attributable to Samira, Queensland educator

“I’ve worked in privately owned for-profit centres and not-for-profit centres, and the for-profit centres are far worse for children and educators. There is a lot of cost-cutting and a focus on saving money at the expense of educators’ wellbeing and standards.

“The for-profit centre I worked for was regularly understaffed, with educators left to supervise large numbers of children of different ages on their own. Instead of backfilling staffing changes, educators were sent home early to cut costs.

“I was once left with 25 children on my own. You can imagine the risks this put children in. Many children had special needs and weren’t provided with support. Educators were left to deal with extreme behaviours with no resources to support them, under extreme stress. We also had to do paperwork and cleaning while supervising children because no extra time was allocated.

“Sometimes my director would leave a young student educator with me and told me ‘you have help’. When I raised concerns I was told it was ‘fine’. It was far from fine.

“There were many incidents we felt were unsafe. The centre often hired those new to the sector like me who were less familiar with regulations and their rights, and promoted a culture where you should be grateful to be employed.

“At the for-profit centre, our pay was the lowest you can get and we weren’t recognised for our qualifications. Staff meetings weren’t paid, there was no support for professional development or keeping practice up to date, and any education that was mandatory by regulation was paid for out of our own pocket. It was exploitative. Turnover was really high and this impacted on the children.

“It was all about image over reality.”


ENDS Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]



The United Workers Union (UWU) welcomes today’s announcement of additional funding for the early education sector, but the Federal Government has included a raft of JobKeeper-style loopholes.

“The Federal Government’s announcement of funding for centres has learned no lessons from employers rorting previous funding like JobKeeper,” said UWU ECEC Director Helen Gibbons.

“The entire sector has been calling for additional funding for centres to survive during lockdown restrictions. Today’s announcement is no doubt a welcome relief for many – but the fine print has no guarantees this funding will be used as intended.

“Once again, so-called ‘critical workers’ in early education have been treated like an afterthought.

“By not linking funding to wages, the Government has failed to close loopholes we’ve all seen exploited by large greedy companies.

“Providers across the sector, both profit and not-for-profit, have been crying out for additional funding. Now that it’s here, employers need to stand up and commit to using this new funding to support workers’ income and employment.

“This means no cuts to hours or forced taking of leave.

“Providers need to publicly commit to using this funding as intended, to maintain educators’ wages. If employers try to do the wrong thing, educators will hold you to account.

“United Workers Union calls on the Federal Government to close the loopholes in their new funding announcement to ensure every employer in the sector does the right thing.

“This new funding must be tied to wages to provide real support for the early education sector.”


ENDS Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]