By CELA on 1 Jul, 2024

Recent research conducted by Macquarie University and the University of Melbourne highlights a concerning trend that may not surprise CELA members: One in three early childhood professionals plans to leave the profession, with over half of these intending to exit within the next five years. This further emphasises the urgent need for targeted interventions to address the already existing workforce crisis in early childhood education and care (ECEC). 

The research paper, titled The impact of work-related well-being and workplace culture and climate on intention to leave in the early childhood sector, was written by Rebecca Bull, Laura McFarland, Tamara Cumming and Sandie Wong. 

For both educators and center directors, the study showed that emotional exhaustion is a significant predictor of the intention to leave. Additionally, for educators, lower satisfaction with pay and benefits and lower qualification levels were key factors. For center directors, higher personal accomplishment and older age increased the likelihood of planning to leave.  

Qualitative findings from the study highlight pervasive feelings of being undervalued by society, government, and families. Increased demands, inadequate support, and administrative overload are contributing to feelings of frustration and burnout among professionals. 

I will be turning 57 this year and feel that the hours and level of responsibility and pay do not allow for a good work/life balance with the focus always being on ‘work’ and not so much on ‘life’. Our industry is so undervalued and I feel I am getting too old to fight this.

(P689, Centre Director)    

Managing a centre that offers long daycare and integrated funded kinder, my role is more akin to that of a school principal, not a ‘manager.’ I am responsible for all grants/funding/community liaisons. I have over 30 staff and over 150 children attending. I am on call 24/7 for all staff needs and child needs.

(P22, Centre Director)

Impact of turnover affects quality  and economic viability 

High staff turnover disrupts the continuity of care and relationships with children and families, leading to negative outcomes for all involved. Remaining staff often face increased workloads and stress, exacerbating the cycle of attrition. Financially, turnover incurs substantial costs related to recruitment and training, impacting the economic viability of services. 

"The findings of this research highlight the critical need for increased pay and better conditions to retain our dedicated early childhood professionals," says CELA CEO Michele Carnegie. "Ensuring fair compensation and support for early childhood educators is not just about retention, but about valuing the profession and securing the future of quality early childhood education in Australia." 

CELA’s actions to address the crisis 

CELA has been well aware of this crisis for years, and has led a relentless advocacy campaign to government for a solution.  

Last year, CELA took a historic step by joining early education employers and unions to lodge the first-ever application for a national multi-employer agreement in the Fair Work Commission. This initiative aims to negotiate better pay and conditions for early childhood educators and teachers.  

Our efforts have already yielded results, with the government agreeing to provide funding towards a wage increase in the recent budget. 

As a trusted and experienced advocate for the early childhood sector, CELA is now acting as an employer bargaining representative in this process. This ensures community-managed and small providers have a voice at the table in this historic process. 

CELA is currently supporting providers to participate in two multi-employer bargaining processes under new Supported Bargaining Laws: 

  • The National Long Day Care Multi-Employer Agreement: Aiming to deliver funded professional wages to federally funded long day care services. 
  • The NSW Community Preschools Multi-Employer Agreement: Aiming to extend these professional wages to NSW State Government funded standalone preschools. 

Members: Log in to read our article CELA and IEU lodge NSW Preschool MEB application


The findings of this study provide valuable insights into the factors driving early childhood professionals out of the sector. By addressing these issues through targeted interventions and systemic changes, we can work towards a more stable, supported, and valued ECEC workforce.  

CELA continues to champion the needs of our members and the broader sector, with a particular focus on small and community providers.  

We have consistently lobbied in state and federal parliament, spearheaded the multi-employer bargaining initiative, and ensured our members have access to professional support and advice.  

In 2023 CELA CEO Michele Carnegie represented issues impacting community and small providers at 119 federal and state advisory group meetings and key inquiry consultations. We undertook over 3,000 hours of advocacy on behalf of CELA members around our five key advocacy focus areas. 

How we help:  

Speaking up: Advocacy for small and community providers and the broader sector 

Round-the-clock support: Member exclusive 1800 support line and online NQF-related policy guidance resources 

Publications: Weekly member newsletter, Amplify! weekly newsletter, ebooks and guides plus triannual Rattler magazine 

Learning and development: 

» Extensive and affordable professional development calendar 

» Over 50 topics with the largest range of NESA accredited courses 

» Certified child protection training (RTO ID 90842) 

» Approved provider and governance training 

» Committee training 

» Annual events focused on leadership and inclusion 


Further reading relating to this topic:  

The impact of work-related well-being and workplace culture and climate on intention to leave in the early childhood sector  by Rebecca Bull, Laura McFarland, Tamara Cumming, Sandie Wong 

CELA Amplify! What is multi employer bargaining and how does it relate to the Award!-blog/june-2024/multi-employer-bargaining-and-how-relates-to-award 

CELA Amplify! Federal funding for ECEC pay increases announced!-blog/may-2024/federal-funding-for-ecec-pay-increases-announced 

CELA Amplify! Celebrating community ECEC in parliament!-blog/may-2024/celebrating-community-ecec-in-parliament 


About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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