Today the United Workers Union (UWU) has released a ground-breaking report showing the early education is on the brink of crisis.

In the largest survey of its kind, nearly 4000 current and former educators revealed they are leaving the sector at record levels because of excessive workloads and low pay.

Over a quarter of current educators reported they plan to leave the sector within the next twelve months, and of those educators who do plan to stay, almost half (46%) think about leaving ‘all of the time’ or ‘most of the time’. In contrast, projections show the sector needs 40,000 additional staff by 2023 to meet growing demand for early learning services.

“The message from early educators across the country is clear: they are at breaking point.  There is no early childhood sector without early educators, and they simply can’t afford to stay and hold it together anymore,” said UWU’s Early Education Director Helen Gibbons.

“The pandemic has exacerbated an existing problem, with job vacancies close to doubling compared to pre-COVID levels. High workload because of increased understaffing is pushing more and more educators out of the sector.

The report Exhausted, undervalued and leaving: the crisis in early education also found:

  • 70% of educators surveyed said they ‘always’ or ‘often’ worry about their financial situation.
  • 81% of centre directors say they have had difficulties in attracting and recruiting staff.
  • 92% of educators told us ‘under-the-roof’ ratios compromise the safety and wellbeing of children.
  • 65% of educators report that their services are already understaffed, and providers are reporting having to cap new enrolments because they can’t find enough staff.
  • 82% of current educators say that in the past month they ‘always’ or ‘often’ felt rushed when performing key caring and/or educational tasks.
  • Over 75% of educators strongly agree that turnover negatively impacts how children learn and develop as well as their emotional wellbeing more broadly.
  • Almost half of educators surveyed would not recommend ECEC as a career.
  • Every state and territory was represented. Key findings: NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, WA, ACT, TAS, and NT

“Services are already reporting having to cap new enrolments. Without urgent action, this crisis will spiral out of control and children and families will miss out, losing access to crucial early learning services.

“Across the sector, educators, families and service providers are in agreement: the only way to fix this crisis is to fix educators wages and conditions. The Federal Government is currently considering a workforce strategy for early education. This is the opportunity for the Government to provide a real solution for the sector: by delivering a workforce strategy that provides targeted funding to improve wages.”


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



Teachers, Educators and Education Support Staff struggling to get access to vaccination has left schools and early learning centres unsafe, and society without a clear path out of the Covid-19 mess, three major education unions said today.

In a letter released today the unions called for the Minister, Greg Hunt, to prioritise access to vaccination for teachers, educators and support staff in schools and early learning centres to keep these frontline essential workers and those they educate safe.

In calling for priority vaccinations – staff in schools and early learning centres are not in any priority category at the moment – the unions argue priority access to vaccinations for staff would minimise the impact of future Covid-19 outbreaks on millions of families and children who rely on schools and early learning services.

The unions – United Workers Union, the Australian Education Union and the Independent Education Union – represent thousands of early childhood educators, teachers and education support staff across Australia.

Helen Gibbons, Early Childhood Education and Care Director of United Workers Union, said today:

“We are calling on the Federal Government to rectify what has always been an appalling situation and lift early educators up the queue so that they can get the jab as soon as possible.

“Early learning services remained open throughout the pandemic, supporting families, children and essential workers. You can’t socially distance with young children. The pandemic is travelling through our communities and educators are on the frontline unprotected.

“If that’s not the definition of requiring high-priority access to vaccines, I don’t know what is.”

Correna Haythorpe, the Federal President of the Australian Education Union, said:

“It has been infuriating that teachers and education support staff have been given no priority in the vaccination queue.

“As we understand more about the Delta variant, it becomes clear just how serious the health risks are to students and the education workforce.

“Schools pride themselves as being safe places for students, teachers and support staff and it’s simply not good enough that teachers and education support staff are not given priority vaccinations.”

Christine Cooper, Acting Federal Secretary of the Independent Education Union of Australia, said:

“Teachers and education support staff have exposure to an extensive proportion of the community.

“They have at all times met the challenges of this pandemic with professionalism and commitment to their students and communities.  They too, deserve to feel safe and protected.”

“Instead of getting schools on a ‘return-to-normal’ path, we have teachers and support staff experiencing long waits for the vaccine. The way forward for schools and for society is to ensure that all teachers and education support staff have priority access to vaccination. This will safeguard schools and centres as the safe environment needed for the essential uninterrupted delivery of quality education.”


Media Contacts

United Workers Union: 1300 898 633, [email protected]

Australian Education Union: Alys Gagnon, 0438 379 977, [email protected]

Independent Education Union of Australia: Simon Schmidt, 0466 144 360, [email protected]



The Morrison Government’s attempt to show a commitment to women in this Budget ultimately does not reach the women it’s supposed to benefit, the United Workers Union said today.

“If the Coalition was looking to solve its ‘women problem’, this Budget is not the fix,” Jo-anne Schofield, the National President of United Workers Union said today.

“When you look closely at this Budget, at home care, at residential aged care, in disability services and at early childhood education and care (ECEC), it is scanty on detail and depressingly low on impact where it really counts.

“UWU members who work in home care, residential aged care and ECEC wanted to see in this Budget long-term structural fixes to address low pay and insecure work for overwhelmingly female workforces that have been ignored for far too long.

“It leaves the firm impression of a Budget built largely by men trying to find solutions to problems they do not fully understand.”

  1. Home care and residential aged care (stats on female participation below)
  2. Early childhood education and care (stats on female participation below)

Home care and residential aged care

“This Budget gives the illusion of action on aged care but fails to address fundamental issues facing the sector,” Carolyn Smith, Aged Care Director of United Workers Union, said today.

“In residential care when you look at the promise of care time for older Australians, it’s being introduced with the lightest feather of regulatory enforcement: an obligation to report care time minutes in July 2022.

“The aged care sector knows what this is about: no-strings-attached funding for providers and no clear expectation that money will be meaningfully tied to care for older Australians.

“Given 42 per cent of the sector is not profitable – while others are wildly profitable – it looks a lot like a bailout package rather than caring for older Australians.

“In home care clearing the waiting list over two years simply means older Australians will continue to die on the waiting list.

“Scott Morrison has broken his promise for a comprehensive response to the aged care crisis by rejecting the Royal Commission’s recommendation that the home care wait list be cleared by the end of the year.

“In both sectors, and completely unaddressed by this Budget, women are on some of Australia’s lowest  pay rates for insecure work that barely give them enough hours to live on, amid chronic understaffing.

“Where is the commitment to secure, well-paid, safe jobs necessary for quality care of older Australians, with the Royal Commission forecasting there will be an extra 80,000 aged care workers needed by 2030?”

Ms Smith also said the centrepiece aged care funding measure of $17.7 billion a year over five years – or $3.5 billion a year – paled in comparison to the $50 billion in funding needs indicated by the Royal Commission and others over the same period.

“In its final report the Royal Commission found Federal Government funding in 2018-19 was $9.8 billion lower annually than it should be if aged care had been appropriately funded,” Ms Smith said.

“The funding shortfall is leading to horrendous human costs in aged care, with older Australians left unsafe and vulnerable, and workers left physically and emotionally exhausted.

“Respected think tanks including the Grattan Institute and the Centre for Future Work have come to exactly the same figure of $10 billion extra a year needed for quality aged care for older Australians. When is the Federal Government finally going to recognise that a well-staffed, well-trained, adequately-paid workforce  is the single biggest driver to providing the quality care time needed by older people in Australia?”

Early childhood education and care

“Once again, Scott Morrison’s Federal Government has failed to deliver a cohesive national vision for early education in Australia,” Helen Gibbons, Early Education Director of United Workers Union, said today.

“The promises last weekend about additional fee relief for parents hasn’t lived up to the hype, with many families missing out on any help and all changes delayed till after the next election. Early education continues to be unaffordable for many.”

Budget announcements tonight did nothing to improve the quality of services across the country, with 19 per cent not meeting minimum standards. A total of 2800 services across Australia failed to provide the very basic care and education the community considers a minimum and this Budget ignores this continuing problem.

“The Budget tonight did nothing to support and value the essential early education workforce that this community relied on throughout the pandemic.

“The vast majority of workers in early education are female and low-paid. The Morrison government continues to treat this mostly female workforce with indifference.”

The early education sector is facing a workforce crisis, without enough qualified educators to meet current demand due to high turnover. Researchers report that 37 per cent of educators intend to leave the sector with this alarming figure rising to 45 per cent in remote areas. Staffing waivers are increasing dramatically as centres struggle to fill positions and the government estimates that Australia will need an additional 39,000 educators in the sector by 2023.

“Educators leave the job they love because love doesn’t pay the bills. The Budget did nothing to address the workforce crisis,” Ms Gibbons said.

“This Federal Budget was Scott Morrison’s opportunity to make a real difference for women, including the hundreds of thousands of workers in early education. Instead Morrison has well and truly missed the mark.

“The early education sector is in crisis, with calls for reform sounding from every corner of our society. Scott Morrison has chosen not to listen.”

  1. About 89 per cent of home care workers and about 87 per cent of residential aged care workers in direct care roles are women, within a total aged care workforce of more than 360,000.
  2. About 94 per cent of women in early education roles are women in a workforce of more than 150,000

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



The United Workers Union (UWU) welcomes additional Federal money for early education but the Federal Government’s recent announcement offers no solution to a growing crisis in the sector.

“The Federal Government’s announcement of $1.7billion to fund early childhood education is a band-aid on a sector in crisis,” said UWU ECEC Director Helen Gibbons.

“The announcement provides some financial relief to some families, but provides no funding linked to improving the quality of the sector or educator wages.

“The early education sector is facing a workforce crisis, without enough qualified educators to meet current demand due to high turnover. The Federal Government’s announcement will only increase that demand, without providing any support for educators to stay in the sector.

“The system is broken, and this half-hearted attempt by the Federal Government is not good enough and speaks more to a short term political fix than a vision of delivering a world class early education system.

“There can be no resolution to the growing crisis in early education without directing funding to pay early childhood educators a decent wage, and to ensure quality standards across the sector.

“United Workers Union calls on Scott Morrison and the Federal Government to deliver a Budget which addresses the workforce crisis in early education.”



Yesterday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the State Government would fully fund Victorian kinder services in sessional and Long Day Care centres in 2021.

This announcement extends free kindergarten delivered in 2020 to support families during the COVID-19 pandemic to 2021. It will also include funded kindergarten programs in long day care.

This means eligible three and four-year-old children attending kinder will have their education and care funded, with families saving around $2,000 in annual fees.

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

“This is a welcome announcement in ensuring access to high quality early learning in Victoria, regardless of setting. The Victorian Government is investing in secure jobs in the hard-working critical early education workforce.

“Every child deserves quality early education and care, and the best start possible in life. This is an investment in families and children, but also an investment in quality jobs for educators, in recognition of their hard work throughout the year in Victoria.

“United Workers Union welcomes this announcement and improved job security for educators in kinder across Victoria.”

Quotes attributable to Quynh Nguyen, Kindergarten Teacher in Victoria:

“The kinder program in our Centre provides critical early education and care to three and four-year-old children. The program will set the children up for success, teaches the children social skills, self-regulating, builds on their self-independence, certain aspects of life within their community and gives them the building blocks to be a success later in life.

“Educators in Victoria welcome the new funding announced today to support our families in lowering fees, to allow greater access to programs for young children, and to improve job security in our sector.”



Today Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese announced Labor’s budget reply, shining a light on low wages in the early childhood education sector.

Educators have welcomed Labor’s commitments to making early education more affordable for families, a roadmap for universal access to early education, a more stable sector and importantly, a plan to review educator wages.

United Workers Union’s Helen Gibbons said, “Labor’s budget reply recognises the crucial role of early childhood education in our communities and our economy. This is a welcome counterpoint to Scott Morrison’s Federal Budget, which disappointed millions of educators and families with no announcement or recognition for the sector.

“Throughout this pandemic, educators have worked every day to provide quality early education and care while keeping children and communities safe from infection. In response, the Federal Government have left educators out in the cold. Early educators were the first workers cut off from JobKeeper, and the Federal Budget has now doubled down on Scott Morrison’s appalling lack of respect for this female-dominated workforce.

“Labor’s announcement to improve affordability and access to early childhood education will benefit hundreds of thousands of Australian children and families.  Making early education more affordable will also go a long way to securing the long term job security of early childhood educators, whose jobs and hours were greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a move which recognises the central value of early childhood education to the Australian economy and communities, compared to the Federal Government who, once again, have turned their back on the sector.

“United Workers Union commends Labor for recognising that fixing affordability for families is only half of the problem in early childhood education, and committing to review early childhood wages.  We know the system is broken for educator wages, who remain insultingly low paid.

“Any parent who has been required to home-school their toddlers this year will tell you that early childhood educators are worth their weight in gold.  The future of early childhood education must include a plan about how we finally ensure they are paid what they deserve.”


MEDIA RELEASE Educators petition Dan Tehan for a wage guarantee on Early Childhood Educators’ Day

Today Australia celebrates frontline workers in early education on Early Childhood Educators’ Day. But this year, early childhood educators feel hung out to dry by the Federal Government during the COVID-19 crisis.

Educators were the first workers to be cut from JobKeeper, and have faced months of uncertainty and financial hardship.  Over 10,000 people signed a petition in support of Victorian educators in just a few weeks.

Dan Tehan, Federal Minister for Education has agreed to meet with United Workers Union members today to receive a petition for the Federal Government to provide a wage guarantee to workers in early childhood education and care throughout this crisis.

Centre Director Cassandra has worked in the sector for more than 15 years. She says, “We are here to tell Dan Tehan that it’s time for a real wage guarantee for early childhood educators.

“When the Government targeted our sector as the first to lose JobKeeper, it was a blow to all of us.

“Educators in Victoria have faced unnecessary uncertainty and hardship through a lack of Federal Government support. Today it’s Victoria, but it could be any of us in the future. We feel hung out to dry.

“It’s not good enough to call us heroes. We deserve a safety net like everyone else.”

United Workers Union Early Childhood Education and Care Director Helen Gibbons said, “The Federal Government has repeatedly thanked educators for their contributions with empty words.

“The government has attempted to fob off educators with a meaningless ‘employment guarantee’ but this guarantee doesn’t prevent part-timers and casuals from facing drastic cuts in hours. The vast majority of the sector is part-time or casual, and they have no safety net.

“Throughout this pandemic, educators have worked every day to provide quality early education and care while keeping children and communities safe from infection.

“Now thousands of part-time and casual educators in Victoria have had their hours reduced to next to nothing.

“We are calling on the Federal Government to establish a wage guarantee for all early childhood educators during this crisis, and for any future funding to the sector to be tied to wages, to ensure a sustainable early learning sector into the future.

“The Federal Government must provide immediate support for educators to survive this pandemic.”


MEDIA RELEASE United Workers Union welcomes launch of Early Childhood Strategy for the ACT

The United Workers Union welcomes today’s launch of the ACT Government’s “Set up for Success: An Early Childhood Strategy for the ACT”.

UWU’s Helen Gibbons said, “The launch of this strategy shows the ACT Government is valuing educators and valuing children.

“Most importantly, this strategy acknowledges the link between valuing early childhood educators and better outcomes for children. Quality early childhood education and care is a vital cornerstone for our society.

“The ACT Government’s approach is based on the overwhelming evidence that quality early childhood education and care makes a significant developmental impact on children.

“The Union welcomes the strategy’s recognition of the significant contributions of early childhood educators to children, families, communities and our society.

“By recognising the direct, positive educational and developmental impact the workforce has on children, the ACT Government can improve outcomes for children by supporting educators.”

The new ACT Government strategy outlines the ACT Government’s plan for early childhood education and care in the ACT for the next decade, and is based on four foundations for implementation:

  • A fair start for every child
  • Valuing educators, values children
  • Every child has a story
  • Working together for children

“Early childhood educators bring special knowledge and skills to their interactions with children, supporting them to deepen and extend their thinking, problem-solving skills and language as well as to build close and respectful relationships. Valuing children and investing in their learning and development requires that the government and community value and invest in educators.”

Educator Cassandra Duff has worked in early childhood education and care for more than 15 years.

“Today’s strategy launch acknowledges the work that educators like me do every day.

“Early childhood educators deserve respect, professional pay and recognition. This strategy is an important step for making these things a reality for ACT educators.

“For educators, this strategy will mean more Government support for training and professional development, and improvements to professional recognition.”


MEDIA RELEASE Federal Government announcement has no guarantees for educators

Empty promises of an employment guarantee to educators did nothing to reassure early educators that they will be paid over the next six weeks.

This week both the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the importance of an employment guarantee for workers in early childhood education.

Early educators have been on the frontline of this pandemic, ensuring essential workers can go to work and our economy continued to function.

But last month the Federal Government singled out early educators as the one sector to lose access to JobKeeper. Instead, the Government introduced a transitional payment where funding is directed to centres. This transitional payment doesn’t require any employer to pay workers a single cent of that taxpayer-funded payment.

Now that Stage 4 restrictions have been announced in Victoria, job losses and stand-downs are real concerns for hundreds of thousands of Victorian workers. Other sectors have the ability to access JobKeeper if they are stood down from their employment. But early educators have no such income security.

When the Federal Government announced this morning that there would be further support for the sector, educators were hopeful that this glaring inequality would be addressed.

Those hopes were dashed today when Dan Tehan announced further details of the Federal Government scheme, which increased funding to centres and improved provisions for parents, but made no provisions for income security for educators.

The new scheme increases allowable absences for parents and increases the amount of transitional funding directed to centres who see a downturn in enrolments.

United Workers Union Early Childhood Education and Care Director Helen Gibbons said: “Although educators welcome the improved arrangements for parents and the increased financial support for centres, there is nothing in today’s announcement that gives educators any certainty about being paid over the next six weeks.

“The Federal Government has clearly recognised the need to support this essential sector.

“But the devil is in the detail, and the current employment guarantee in the transitional funding model is not worth the paper it is written on. There is nothing in the current arrangements to prevent an employer standing down as many of their staff as they choose without pay.

“Workers in early education and care are now facing enormous uncertainty.

“What is required to fix this mess is a rock-solid wage guarantee that will give educators certainty that they will be paid. The taxpayer funding that is being directed to these services must be tied to wages to ensure that money is passed onto workers, and not kept by employers.

“It’s clear from the statement by the Minister that he has only listened to employers, and has not consulted with workers in the sector before announcing this new funding.

“Educators have no guarantee that their employers will choose to spend this extra taxpayer-funded money on their wages or employment.

“This is an appalling omission from the Federal Government and leaves tens of thousands of educators in Victoria facing an uncertain future.

“It’s great that today Dan Tehan recognised early educators as the ‘unsung heroes’ of this pandemic, but these are empty words when he will not guarantee they are paid for the next six weeks.

“United Workers Union is calling on Minister Tehan to guarantee educators’ wages by strengthening the employment guarantee provisions in the transitional funding.”


MEDIA RELEASE Early Educators petition Government for JobKeeper during lockdown in Victoria

Thousands of educators across the country are calling on the Federal and State Government to reinstate JobKeeper for Early Childhood Educators in Victoria for the length of the Stage 4 restrictions.

Yesterday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that as of Thursday, early childhood services in Melbourne will close, except for children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

Workers in early childhood education have already lost access to JobKeeper, meaning tens of thousands of educators working in federally-funded long day care services across Melbourne are facing today’s announcement with no guarantee of income for at least the next 6 weeks.

United Workers Union is calling on the State and Federal Government to extend JobKeeper to early educators in Victoria, with a petition launched only last night gathering more than 5,000 signatures and counting.

UWU’ Early Childhood Education and Care Director Helen Gibbons said: “The Government did not listen to the sector when they cut off early education from the JobKeeper scheme. That appalling decision now leaves tens of thousands of Melbourne educators at risk of being stood down without pay.
“JobKeeper was not implemented well in early education but it is the easiest solution to this crisis.

“If the Government just increases the current transitional payment in early education, this money could go straight to shareholders, with no guarantee of wages for workers. The Government must listen to educators now.

“Extending JobKeeper to educators is the only way to provide them with the same safety net as other sectors and guarantee that Victorian early education weathers this next lockdown.”

Karen has been an early childhood educator for more than 15 years, and currently works in a centre in Melton.

“We can’t afford to be without wages. Most of us have used all our entitlements in the last lockdown, and we have nothing left. How are we going to feed our children or pay our bills?

“How are we even going to survive?”

One Early Education Centre Director in western Melbourne said: “We are all feeling overwhelmed and worried about our sector. How are we going to come out the other side of this without Government support?”

Shelley Duggan has worked as an early childhood educator in Victoria for more than 18 years.

“Educators like me have already lost the support of JobKeeper. Now we are now faced with no guarantee of our income for at least the next 6 weeks.

“This crisis has been an incredibly exhausting and anxious time for everyone working in early education. Tens of thousands of educators across Melbourne have been on the front lines of this pandemic. We have kept going to work every day despite the risk to ourselves and our loved ones. Instead of thanking us for our contribution, the Federal Government kicked us off Job Keeper before anyone else.

“That’s why we are calling on the State and Federal Governments to immediately guarantee educators’ wages. We deserve the same safety net as other Melbourne workers.”