Letters to the Editor

09th Apr 2020

Trains not lost

I suspect residents of Guyra are, like me, heartily sick of the futile debate about the rail trail versus the train, but I feel obliged to answer the question posed by Mr. Evans regarding the name of the town we have visited on a number of occasions in Victoria where the trail has brought prosperity.
The town is Bright and the figures stated to me by the motel owner, a barman at the hotel where they were rushed off their feet serving meals, and one of the real estate agents, are anecdotal.
I agree with Mr. Evans that the closure of a railway line is a great economic and social loss to small towns, almost as much as the closure of the banks. Like him, I bemoan the loss of any railway, as I love trains, and use that form of transport whenever I can. Perhaps he is unaware of this, but, fortunately we do still have that opportunity in Guyra.
The old folk who, he claims, would use the train if it came back have no excuse for not doing so now. At 81 years I think I qualify as one of those old folk. I regularly travel to Sydney for medical reasons and am very grateful that I can walk up to Bradley St. (much more convenient than the railway station) to meet the comfortable coach that will take me on the short ride to Armidale to catch the train.
The drivers are invariably courteous and helpful with my luggage, booking it through to Sydney for me and assisting me on board if I am not well. I find it amusing that you would consider me an elitist in that I would like to see the abandoned line put to use by the community. I would rather wear that, though, than be called a backward looking, selfish old man who does not put the wellbeing of the younger generations before my own.
So come on then, Mr. Evans, help me spread the good news that we haven’t lost our train, and then we can put this tedious debate to rest.
John Ross

Thank you
I would like to thank Gala, Janelle and Martha for keeping the production of the Gazette going. This is a great publication to keep the community up to date with the happenings and at this time of social isolation an extremely necessary commodity. Thank you.
Dot Vickery

Family Day Care
I am writing to you regarding the COVID-19 child care relief package (CRP).
As a Family Day Care (FDC) educator of 16 years in Guyra NSW, servicing under Armidale and District Family Day Care( AFDC), I want to share the impact this package will have on all FDC services across Australia. 
Families across Australia are rejoicing with the news of free childcare for everyone. It’s a relief that families have finally been given support from the government during this COVID-19 crisis.
The government is no doubt patting themselves on the back for helping to keep the doors of thousands of struggling centres across Australia open. These centres have seen a marked exodus of child enrolments, since the social distancing protocols have come into place. This bailout package will be perfect to keep them operations.
However, what families and the public need to know is that this childcare relief package (CRP), only serves to suit the struggling services and will decimate services that remain fully booked. The Early Childhood Education and Care sector is made up of Centre based care (private, community based, and council run), Preschools, In home care and Family Day Care. All these services are vastly different in their daily operations, staff numbers, management and most importantly how they are financed. When offering this package, the government has blindly placed all these unique services in one basket. This cannot work.
Family Day Care (FDC) is one sector or Early childhood education and care that will suffer the most. While what is behind their veil of ‘free childcare for everyone’ is the horrifying truth that FDC Early Childhood Educators have been forced to continue working, despite being on the front line with no social distancing, as an ESSENTIAL service. All the while taking a MINIMUM of 50% pay cut, most cases much more.
 What the government propose to do is pay ONLY 50% of revenue to educators based on the attendances between 17th February and 2nd March 2020, capped at 11.10/ child/hour. This equates to $5.55/hour/child. After this measly amount, educators must take our expenses such as insurance, service fees, superannuation, educations resources, membership fees and care supplies, and then, with what insignificant amount that is left over, is supposed to be enough to support educator’s own families.  An additional concern is that educators who had fewer enrolments or were taking leave during this period, their future payments will reflect this, regardless of any new enrolments or extra hours worked.
This plan is set in place to help struggling services, however those that were fully booked, and business as usual have taken a massive hit. Some FDC services are receiving over 70% less income. How is this fair?
Families are now deciding to send their children back into FDC because it is now free. The real kicker is that none of these new enrolments will be paid for. Neither will any new enrolments that educators were receiving income for between 2nd March and 5th April. These will not be paid as apparently these don’t factor into the CRP. This is no incentive to provide extra positions from new enrolments, or to provide essential school holiday care, as educators will simply not get paid.
Yet educators are still expected to work to provide care to families through this global pandemic, with no PPE and no social distancing. FDC educators are having multiple families into their homes daily, so social distancing is compromised. They are having to spend many extra hours cleaning (buying extra cleaning materials at their own cost) and practicing perfect hygiene (many extra hours of unpaid work). The government is expecting FDC educators to work on the frontline, having people in their homes, for half the price.
The government then, in a back handed effort to placate educators, have announced that educators are expected to apply for the job keeper allowance as a sole trader. This allowance will not be available to some educators, due to tight criteria, leaving their services of the brink of closure. Also, at this point, this allowance has not even been mandated yet, and if it is, and if educators qualify, will not be available till sometime in May. How can FDC services continue to operate on over 50% less income?
The flow on affect is that coordination units, who support educators and monitor the provision if Early Childhood Education and Care amongst their educators, risk closure, resulting in FDC educators losing their schemes. It’s a lose-lose situation.
This policy is not targeted, equitable or appropriate. It is a poorly designed and thought out package simply to gain popularity amongst families using childcare. Essentially all it will succeed in doing is forcing the closure of over 18,000 FDC services Australia wide and 688 coordination units, affecting the care for over 170,000 children and their families.
Whilst FDC educators understand that we all must do our bit in this COVID 19 crisis (yes I have been told that I should shut up and be grateful to have a job during the current pandemic), I’m sure you’ll agree, FDC is doing more than enough to keep essential workers working, but of these essential workers, would you expect any of them to take a pay cut and be forced into working 50+ hours a week for half pay? I think not.
FDC educators are entitled to be paid appropriately, not be treated as an afterthought in the process of the government trying to gain points for giving free childcare.
If, as a concerned member of our community you would like to refute this package please contact Barnaby Joyce MP, or Education minister Dan Tehan MP.
Thank you for your attention
Val Hume
Registered Educator
Armidale and District
Family Daycare