Actor Rhys Muldoon went off script to give early years educators a personal thumbs-up at Saturday’s Big Steps rally in Sydney.
The screen star donned his Play School persona to entertain children and parents before the real Rhys Muldoon made his own call for better wages for educators.
Muldoon said that quality teachers set youngsters up for successful lives. His was one of the feature performances on a day that drew more than 3000 Big Steps supporters to Hyde Park.
But the stars of the shows were educators, their students and parents who travelled from as far away as Inverell, Kempsey and Taree to make the day a success.
Making their point ... the Taree, Kempsey crew
Educators put a lot of work into banners that spoke as much of their commitment to children as their need to pay the bills. Eye-catching contributions came from the teams at Goodstart Ashfield and Narwee, Master Kids Matraville and the mid-north coast travellers.
National Big Steps leaders Marian Rakosi (Meadowbank TAFE Childrens Centre) and Emily Donnan (Master Kids Childcare Centre, Matraville) related moving stories of hardships faced by workers in the sector and explained how miserable wages were driving people away.
“People are leaving every week,” Marian said, "often because our levels of responsibility are increasing highly while our wages remain inadequately low."
United Voice NSW secretary, Mark Boyd, praised the commitment of Big Steps activists and said their campaign had become central to the union’s activities.
He said only federal government support would ensure a system that continued to deliver for Australian families.
“The problem is that early childhood education and care services cannot afford to pay higher wages. Parents cannot afford to pay higher fees. The system cannot fix the problem, it requires intervention,” he said.
The politics of professional wages shared the Big Steps stage with all the fun of a family day out. Aunty Wendy’s enthusiastic Mob and African drummers knocked the kids off their feet, while the form of the Brazilian dancers fired the imaginations of many of the not-so-young.