Juliette was asked to contribute her knowledge to this article about childcare in the Sydney Morning Herald, written by Barbara Drury.
Another low-cost alternative is to welcome an overseas student, or au pair, into your home. Juliette MacGregor, of Smartaupairs, says most au pairs are looking for a cultural experience with the chance to earn some pocket money for travel.
Au pairs typically work up to 30 hours a week, minding children and doing light chores before and after school with the occasional night of babysitting. In return they receive bed and board plus pocket money of around $170 to $200 a week, depending on hours and qualifications.
MacGregor says her agency places 500 to 600 au pairs a year in major cities around Australia but has to turn away many families. That’s partly because of to a seasonal shortage of au pairs at the start of the school year because most European students begin their gap year in the northern summer.
“We also get a lot of inquiries from regional families because there’s not much formal childcare in their area, but we have to turn them away”, MacGregor says.
Up until recently au pairs – who are generally overseas students on a 12-month working holiday visa – were restricted to working with each employer for a maximum of six months. But last year the Department of Immigration and Border Protection removed this restriction, allowing au pairs to stay with a family for up to 12 months.
The Cultural Au Pair Association of Australia is also in discussions with the government to create a specific au pair visa open to more nationalities to help meet demand for their services.