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Free Child Care in Australia? Is this possible?

I am a regular reader of Red Balloon CEO Naomi Simson’s blog. She provides wonderful insights into the world of an entrepreneur, as well as offering interesting commentary on relevant workplace issues.

One of her recent blog posts Free Childcare for all Australians particularly struck a chord with me. As many of you know, I am a new mum to a 9 month old girl. I am also surround by many friends and family with children, and it is surprising how often the topic of childcare has come up in the last few weeks. I believe this is particularly relevant because many will be finishing maternity leave and returning to work in the new year. Many are having to juggle workplace expectations with availability of childcare, as well as having to return to work for more days than they would perhaps prefer, to ensure they have enough income.

Hence, when Naomi spoke of her conversation with her friend Margie Hartley, and Margie said “What if Australia had free, ie: publically-funded childcare? We have public primary and secondary schools – our economy is changing and public policy needs to change with it.” I thought, yes! What if!

I realise many people will respond with many logical reasons as to why this won’t work. But what if it could! There is constant discussion on getting women back into the workforce and the question of why there are so few in senior and board level corporate positions. It seems a big reason for this is childcare availability and cost. Take this example from Naomi’s blog – “I work 4 days a week, I have two pre school children and childcare costs me $40k per year…in POST TAX DOLLARS – I have to earn $70k just to pay for childcare… you have really got to love what you do at work to make it worth working at all.” Why would you work if you weren’t completely passionate about your work?

I am so pleased that this conversation has started. It is the way we get things done, when people are brave enough to take the first step and be persistent. I don’t imagine that this option will be offered next year, or even in time for it to impact me and my family. However, wouldn’t it be an amazing breakthrough for Australia if we could so dramatically improve our workplaces through a relatively simple idea?

I look forward to following the progress and hope that this discussion gains momentum. Let’s be creative and innovative and see where it could take us!

I also look forward to Naomi’s follow up blog post addressing the following paragraph in her post:

“Of course, this does not take into account those women not attracted to the corporate ladder, but still requiring greater flexibility in childcare, for example nurses working shifts, where the usual 7am opening and 6pm close of a long daycare is no help.  Actually, nor is it much support to the corporate working- woman either, given the hours often ‘expected’ in that world (which is another blog in itself).”

This is so true! I am passionate about changing the culture of Australian workplaces and their notion of stated versus ‘expected’ working hours. Naomi – I look forward to your perspective on this!

You may also want to take a look at the petition at www.makecarefair.com.au

Let me know your thoughts! I would love to hear your own experiences and ideas – please comment below.

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