Childcare: where we came from and where we’re going

Peter Clarke talks to Deborah Brennan about child care policy and the longer term impact of the fall of ABC Learning

06 March 2009

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PODCAST | If any area of social policy deserves the label, “never-ending-story,” it’s childcare in Australia. Once the province of community-based providers, from the late eighties childcare gradually became broadly privatised under both Labor and Coalition governments. Recurring questions of standards and improved childcare quality were largely pushed to the background. Using tax-funded subsidies and contemporary corporate practices, ABC Learning and other companies took off, flew high and crashed. Despite soothing rhetoric from the Rudd government, the fall-out threatens to hamper more progressive policies and on-the-ground quality childcare for quite a while. As the global financial crisis tightens its grip, childcare and family policy researcher, Professor Deborah Brennan, discusses the story so far, and the likely next moves, with Peter Clarke.

Stream or download the audio here

This discussion is based on Deborah’s article for Inside Story, Reassembling the Childcare Business.

Peter Clarke is a Melbourne based broadcaster, writer and educator. He pioneered national talkback on Australian radio as the inaugural presenter of Offspring (now Life Matters) on ABC Radio National. Podcast theme created by Ivan Clarke, Pang Productions.

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One Comment

  1. Tim Searles added this comment on 9 March 2009 | Permalink

    As an owner of private child care centres, I thought Debra’s opinion towards private child care was simplistic. Sure, ABC was/is a debacle, but I strongly disagree that private = ABC Learning.
    The vast majority of private child care centres have a very high level of care. They have to; otherwise they would be out of business. For example, in the area in which we operate we have an oversupply of centres. To get new families and retain existing ones we have to provide better care than our competition.
    One of the ways we provide a point of difference is to treat our staff better than anyone else and to have highly qualified staff. This helps us have very low staff turnover and high occupancy. A friend of mine has children at Lady Gowrie, a publicly funded operator that probably has the best reputation in the industry. And yet he complains about their staff turnover. Most parents would rather have their children in ABC than a community group with high staff turnover. Consistency is very important for the children and parents.
    Poor service or exploiting our parents and staff for profit, which is implied in the interview, is the opposite of what we try and do. The only way a private operator can earn a profit is to have a good relationship with its customers (parents) and employees. Like any business, people vote with their feet. Poor service or a substandard level of care results in low occupancy levels and business failure.

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