10 October 2022

Goulburn’s childcare squeeze hits numerous families

| John Thistleton
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Lauren Jade cannot return to work because she cannot find a place for childcare. Every childcare centre she contacted in Goulburn is full and has long waiting lists. Photo: Supplied.

Waiting lists at Goulburn’s childcare services could blow out beyond 2023, creating headaches for young people trying to re-enter the local workforce.

Centres are themselves looking for staff at a time when more young families have relocated from Sydney and Canberra and need childcare.

Raising two little boys, renting their home in Goulburn and facing steep price rises for fuel and groceries, Lauren Jade and her partner are caught up in the crisis.

Lauren has finished maternity leave and her employer at McDonald’s Goulburn South is desperate to have her back.

Her one-year-old son was in childcare, but lost his place when she left work to have her second son. When she tried to re-enrol him and find a place for her eight-week-old baby the problem confronted her.

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“Everyone was full and had waiting lists and it was going to be about 18 months until I could get a spot,” she said.

“I’m a stay-at-home mum and in this day and age you need both parents to be working to support the family because everything has just skyrocketed in prices.

“I have tried to organise my sister-in-law to come from Canberra to babysit the boys, but she is in hospital,” Lauren said. “Babysitters are expensive, almost more than a daycare centre.”

Her partner works 45 hours a week at McDonalds South Goulburn, leaving before his sons are awake to work nine-hour shifts. Lauren wants to work for three days.

“That’s $600 or $700 I could be pulling in to go into savings or for my children or things for the kids to experience on weekends,” she said.

“We both have the opportunity to become managers there as well, but I can’t take that up because at the moment I am unreliable because I don’t have a babysitter or daycare centre.”

baby playing

Finding suitable daycare is a struggle for many Goulburn families. Photo: Belinda Morris.

Her partner’s parents both work and are unable to help.

“They are the only family we have in Goulburn,” Lauren said.

“I was prepared to stay at home with both boys until the youngest was six months old, but with fuel increases, groceries and the rental market, it’s ridiculous. We really need that extra top-up of income.”

Posting her predicament on a community Facebook site, she found many other families in a similar position.

“The people commenting on my post say the population of Goulburn has increased quite quickly. But Goulburn itself hasn’t actually caught up,” she said.

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Goodstart Goulburn offers 76 places daily across the centre. A spokesperson said until last week there were two spaces available at the centre but those have now been filled with those children starting in the next two weeks. The centre will then be operating at 100 per cent occupancy, with 222 families on the wait-list.

Imaginations Early Education has three centres in Goulburn, with two at capacity. The other centre, Lilac Early Learning, needs staff. Spokeswoman Kelly Boydell said the sector was struggling with demand due to the unavailability of unqualified and qualified staff.

A manager at another early education centre said she had been in childcare for 20 years and this was the first time she had seen waiting lists. She recalled when childcare centres appealed to the council not to allow more centres to open, because there were too many and some were unviable. That was no longer the case.

“Our waiting list won’t ease until the bigger kids go to school in January,” she said. “A lot of families have relocated to Goulburn.”

The centre opens at 6:30 am when the children of commuters to Canberra begin arriving.

A spokeswoman for another centre with 70 places said: “We are full every day, we’re always hiring and we’re fully booked for next year too.”

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