A childcare educator writes: “After 31 years of work, I still struggle to pay the bills.”

I became an early childhood educator 31 years ago. After leaving high school I wanted a career that made a difference.

But 31 years later, I am walking off the job today because I, and my colleagues, feel the Turnbull Government is simply refusing to acknowledge the difference educators make.

I know I make a difference to the lives of children and their families when I see the wonderful people I looked after as babies now as adults, and they say, “I remember when …”. Or when a parent who may have needed a little bit of help and understanding comes back and gives you a hug and a genuine thank you.

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Being an early childhood educator is more than sitting and playing with children – though this is important too, because we all know that children learn best through play. Being an educator often means unpaid early starts to prepare for the day and completing the necessary paperwork as per government legislation. I very rarely get to leave on time at the end of the day because the children’s needs come first and the paperwork gets completed after.

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On a typical day within the nursery, I have eight individual routines to follow for eating, sleeping, and bottles. In my role, I am also responsible for the overall program and the learning of the day. Implementing these programs is continuous throughout the day. This is all on top of changing 50+ nappies, preparing 32 meals and giving six bottles every day.

In my service we have introduced the carers’ curriculum, this sits alongside our service curriculum for birth to three-year-olds, which also sits alongside the Early Years Learning framework. You can see how much educators need to be across.

READ MORE: Thousands of childcare educators are walking off the job today across Australia.

I do all of this and I still struggle to pay the big five bills (mortgage, rates, electricity, gas and water) when they fall, while putting food on the table each night. After 31 years, I am still waiting to go on a holiday.

Educators like me are walking off the job because it’s a disgrace that, in 2018, I am expected to live on a wage that is half the national average for the professional work I do, and am qualified to do. The government needs to stand up and take responsibility and pay educators the professional wage we need and the professional wage we rightfully deserve.

If they don’t, the future for this sector is very bleak. We will continue to lose quality educators who simply cannot afford to live on this wage. The future generations of Australian children deserve more than this.

Leah Malzard is a Brisbane educator, and will be walking off in the fight for professional pay on Tuesday 27 March.

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