Closing the gap in pay for educators was the focus of a visit by Federal MP Lisa Chesters to Castlemaine Childcare Cooperative last Thursday for International Women's Day.
The theme for International Women's Day this year was 'Press for Progress' and Ms Chesters said gender equality could not be achieved until the gender pay gap had been tackled.
"On International Women's Day we could focus on a number of areas. International Women's Day is about gender equality and about bridging the gap between the sexes. But until we fund Early Childhood Education properly and until we address the gender pay gap that exists in areas like Early Childhood Education, we're not there yet," Ms Chesters said.
Sally, an early learning educator at Castlemaine Childcare Cooperative, told the Express a personal story that highlighted the gender pay gap.
"I have a daughter who's 23, she has a degree in Fine Arts, but saw the value in my journey in Early Childhood Education and has decided to go into Early Childhood Education so started studying for her certificate III and is about to graduate from that and will hopefully find work. But her hourly rate will be very different to my son, who is younger, has less qualifications and training, but who walked into a position as a concreter. His hourly rate will be higher. I have to ask why is that?" Sally said.
"It feels like it's very unfair."
Castlemaine Childcare Cooperative is part of a campaign called Big Steps - Value our future, which is calling on the government to see the value of Early Childhood Education as a sector.
Ms Chesters said she had been supporting this campaign for some time.
"Here in Castlemaine at this centre they have been pushing for progress for a long time in terms of equal pay. Sally and I met before I was a member of parliament and she has always been passionate about the Big Steps campaign. "Fast forward five years and we are still here asking the government to fund the sector properly," Ms Chesters said.
"On International Women's Day we do stop to focus on what we've achieved but it also highlights how far we have to go."
"The parents here are telling me that they really value their educators, but they can't afford to pay more. The system is broken so it's time the government stepped in and started to fund some of the operational costs like wages."
One of the parents at the centre, Daria Healy-Aarons, said she chose to use a co-operative centre because of the quality education provided.
"Leaving my kids in the care of other people for me to go to work is really challenging. It's a hard decision to make. So when I do that I want to know that I'm handing my kids over to people who are experienced, qualified and really care. I think the government needs to help us because I don't think parents should put up the bill for quality education."
As part of the campaign, the centre will be participating in a 'walk off' and closing at 1pm on March 22.