Nationwide Staffing Shortages: We Need Workforce Plans

Australia’s Federal Education Minister has foreshadowed major reforms to how we recruit and retains our national teaching workforce, in response to shocking data that be believes shows we have just years to fix the system before it becomes unfixable.  

“One thing that’s blown my mind is that 30 to 50 per cent of teachers quit in the first five years … Now some teachers are telling kids don’t become a teacher when we need them more than ever. That’s scary. That tells me we’ve got a crisis.” said Jason Clare MP, Labor’s Minister for Education. 

A study by Monah University found 70% of recipients believed the public did not respect them. Increases in funding for schools between 2009 and 2018 failed to prevent scores in math and scientific literacy dropping by over 20%. Reading performance was unchanged despite high levels of functional adult illiteracy.  

The Commonwealth Government has highlighted messy arrangements between the states and territories as a central issue, with national agreements that fail to set meaningful targets. It’s an issue CPSU members have highlighted repeatedly in our annual Reports on Government Services (ROGs), which were originally intended to ensure all states and territories reported back on similar metrics to ensure Commonwealth funding could be properly directed into ensuring all Australians, wherever they live, receive the same quality of services. 

Ring a bell yet? 


Consider this speech by Speech and Language Pathologist (and proud CPSU member) Sarah on the recruitment and retention crisis facing our allied health professionals and how years of drifting pay and conditions has seen more staff than ever quitting for roles in the NDIS or private sector. Union Delegate Natalie also went public last year to point out the urgent need for jobs that guarantee a reasonable income and reasonable hours for Teacher Assistants in our schools. 

Meanwhile Child Safety workers walked off the job late last year to call attention to crisis conditions in their service. They’ve called for a recruitment and retention package and a national workforce plan. 

Members on why recruitment and retention packages are so critical: 

All it takes is listening to worker voices to understand why Tasmania is now facing a recruitment and retention crisis. Decades of public sector austerity, stagnant wages and poor conditions have meant more workers than ever are considering a career change.  

“Exhausting keeps springing to mind. You love your job so you just keep pushing yourself, and sometimes it’s hard to have those protective boundaries because you’re forced to keep going when you shouldn’t have to.” 

“When we lose staff we lose experience. That experience takes time to rebuild in an organisation, so even when you’re recruiting new staff aren’t able to immediately pick up the work and understand the work we do. When you retain staff you’ve got them there to help to mentor and coach and provide guidance and support for new staff.”  

“We need more workers. We always have. None of the systems are being used properly because they’ve never been staffed appropriately, so we keep making changes thinking it’s going to make things better, but it’s never going to work if we haven’t got the workers.” 

“The vacancies we have in the workforce simply mean that we are playing guessing games with children’s lives …  

“We need to have competitive wages with interstate to attract the right staff to the positions. At the moment we’re seeing lots of our university graduates going to non-government organisations where they’re able to start on $10,0000 more a year; they’re able to walk in and get a car, and why would you want to come to Child Safety with all the bad media and the buck stopping with you?”  

“You can go to a job where you’re better compensated for your time, and you don’t have to take home every single night that a child may die overnight and that’s going to be on you the next morning.”  

As the national union for CPSU child protection workers, the CPSU has been taking members to Canberra to get the message to national-decision makers. We have been working to get the need for a national workforce plan, like the one for teachers, on the national agenda of child safety Ministers. University fee subsidies, access to salary packaging, priority migration status – these are all being discussed as ways to build the child safety workforce needed for the future. 

We are committed to working with members, to listening to your ideas and solutions, and to supporting you to have them implemented. It’s the only way things can and will improve.  

Do you have a story about how the recruitment and retention crisis is impacting your colleagues? Get in touch at communcations@tas.cpsu.com.au 

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