2001 ASSLH conference – For the love of children: The construction of the family day care ‘mother’ 1974-1998

Wendy Paterson
Department of History, School of Humanities, University of Newcastle


Family Day Care began in Australia, in the early 1970s, as an inexpensive and flexible means of providing community childcare places in private homes with authorised care-providers, then known as “day care mothers.” The Australian Council for Women issued a pamphlet in March 1995 suggesting the necessity for further research which identifies how traditional undervaluing of unpaid work influences the value placed on paid work, specifically in jobs performed mostly by women. Referring to the Rockdale Scheme in New South Wales as a case study, this paper examines community attitudes and beliefs towards the role of women providing a home based childcare service.


The provision of flexible, affordable, quality childcare has become a significant political issue. In the 1960s, greater numbers of women responsible for the care of children, sought employment in “female” occupations such as nursing, teaching, welfare and customer service, that echoed the sexual division of labour of service to others within the home. This can be attributed to a number of factors including the Australian post-war immigration program, population growth, the spread of suburbia, an expansion of manufacturing, and a corresponding increase of jobs in the service sector. Work, for some, was a matter of economic necessity. After marriage, some women either wanted or needed for financial reasons to continue being employed. Others, usually middle class women, were influenced by a desire to obtain consumer goods, and the likelihood that their occupations were more likely to be personally satisfying.

An OECD study by the Australian Department of Labour focused on trends in labour force participation for women, patterns of employment and unemployment, childcare and the changing role of parents in the home. Participation in the labour force, by the 1971 Census definition, excluded unpaid housework, or “keeping house,” with childcare as another form of unpaid “work” also disregarded.2 The report noted that, by 1972, Australian women were on average marrying younger and increasingly likely to complete their child bearing by thirty years of age. The average family size had been less than three children for some time.3 Referring to previous census data, the authors estimated that one-thirtieth (3.4%) of the total Australian labour force were married women in 1947, in comparison to one-fifth (18%) in 1971, with female migrants making a significant contribution, from 7.3% of the total female labour force in 1947, to 25.8% in 1971.4 Also cited, was a survey conducted in May, 1969, which found that 29% of people responsible for the care of children under 12 years of age were in the labour force, some 403,300 women and 10,600 men. The researchers then found it necessary to explain that the circumstances of these men caring for children was a result of their being widowed, divorced or permanently separated.5 The family was defined as “two or more persons living in the same household, including the head of the family and any person or persons having the following relationship to the head: wife, son or daughter…brother or sister…grandchild…ancestor…any child under 16 years of age.6 Despite the increasing numbers of married women working, the Department of Labour assumed that in normal circumstances, the male would usually be the paternal and authoritative figure responsible for the economic wellbeing of his family. Influential upon psychological theories of child development has been John Bowlby, who in his book Maternal Care and Mental Health, claimed that “…a child is deprived if for any reason he is removed from his mother’s care.” Referring to the father-child relationship, Bowlby suggested that the father’s valuable contribution is “as the economic and emotional support of the mother.”7

Radical groups including the civil rights movement, those opposed to Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War, and those concerned with women’s liberation challenged government policies, and insisted on their right to participate in decision making. In the early 1970s, members of the Women’s Electoral Lobby demanded that the Government recognise child care, equal education, and job opportunities as “woman’s right,” regardless of their class situation, in order that “women may escape their history into full participation in the community.”8 Partly as a result of pressure by the Women’s Electoral Lobby, in 1974 the Commonwealth Labor Government accepted the major financial responsibility for the costs involved in the establishment and operation of approved preschool and child long day care centres, as well as Family Day Care.9 A series of commissioned reports indicated cautious support for the provision of Family Day Care as a home-based children’s service. A feasibility study for Sydney suburban areas emphasised that the service “is not cheap, but it is probably considerably less expensive than more traditional forms of centre care.”10 The Social Welfare Commission viewed Family Day Care as an extension of the housewife’s occupation, caring for her home and family, rather than as alternative to participation in the workforce.11

Rejecting this low expectation, a report from the Australian Pre-schools Committee (known as The Fry Report), proposed that Family Day Care, as a home based child care service provided by and for the community, should be the major alternative to service provision by day care centres.12 According to The Fry Report, mothering experience alone was not considered a sufficient qualification for the care of other people’s young children. The authors recommended that care providers should be given short-term training courses in order to “enhance their ability to contribute effectively to the needs of children.” The report also suggested that all management and support staff in family day care systems should be either a professional with a qualification related to childcare or a trained support person with an approved two-year certificate following ten years of education. It was assumed that Family Day Care children would attend preschool on a normal sessional basis.13 The “high expectations” of the Fry Report were supported by a comparative evaluation of three Melbourne Family Day Care Projects sponsored by the Brotherhood of St Laurence in the early 1970s. However, this case study emphasised that the term Family Day Care should be reserved for those women who had a “vocational talent,” but preferred to work in their own home as “salaried employees of the community child care agency.”14

In the aftermath of the Women’s Liberation Movement, some historians have been preoccupied with studying women’s oppression, or after taking into account intersections of class and ethnicity, their ability to oppress others.15 More recent feminist analysis gives credence to the construction by women of a significant separate culture. Social theorists depict domestic life as being based upon affective, emotional ties between family members, in contrast to industrial capitalism based upon a contractual and impersonal system of private capital ownership, wage-labour and commodity production and exchange.16 In the 1990s, some Australian historians have attempted to build upon, or progress beyond a narrative of women’s history, shifting from an emphasis on description, causal relationships, and search for determinants, to an examination of meaning within a more sophisticated and complex gendered analysis.

As Betterton has commented, historians should be self consciously aware that “with all cultural forms, meanings are not fixed, but are produced in specific historical and social contexts by readers whose own experiences and knowledge inflict meaning in particular ways.”17 For instance, in Gentle Invaders: Australian Women at Work 1788-1974, Ryan and Conlon pay insufficient attention to the ideological reasons that can affect the value placed on “women’s work”. Although the authors acknowledge that both convict wives of poor settlers, and those of “respectable” background contributed “largely unpaid labour to family income and to the prosperity of the colonies”, the role of women’s unpaid domestic work is afterwards rarely mentioned.18 Connections between women’s role as mothers, and wives, and effects on workforce participation are largely neglected. The inference by omission is that housework and childcare are irrelevant to the Australian economy.

In comparison with Western and European countries in the early 1970s, social history was largely ignored within Australian academic institutions.19 One exception is Beverley Kingston’s My Wife, My Daughter and Poor Mary Ann. This book was inclusive of a broader range of women than Ryan and Conlon’s Gentle Invaders, although it covers a lesser time period, from the 1860s to the 1930s.20 Using diaries, letters, articles and advertisements in newspapers and women’s magazines, Kingston provides a fascinating and detailed account of the lives of women as middle class wives, domestic servants, factory workers, and in “ladylike” professions as teachers and nurses. Women’s class position, as well as her social position as wife, mother, and daughter are taken into account, and the author has developed some insight as to the association between unpaid housework and child care, and the implications these roles have for women in the workforce. Kingston suggests if gestation, birth, and the care of children were perceived as work, then these activities would be recognised as “one of the most significant, continuing, and important forms of production followed by women.”21 But like Ryan and Conlon, Kingston inadvertently universalises the experience and activities of women as an “oppressed class,” or as “victims” of a patriarchal society. Kingston deliberately chooses to ignore racial and cultural differences and experiences in the lives of those women whom she describes as the “interesting minorities.”22

Some historians have displayed an insensitive or patronising attitude towards women’s role within the family by either ignoring their work within the household, or by suggesting that women who care for children have been duped by a conservative ideology based on the construction of biological difference. Ethnic, migrant and Aboriginal women have critiqued both radical and social feminist history for assessing the Australian family and women’s work from the perspective of middle class, white, Anglo-Celtic, Australian born women.23

By studying the gendered constructions of meaning, and the context of attitudes and beliefs towards the role of women, the family, community, and work during the 1970s, it will be possible to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the development of Family Day Care in Australia. The research of this paper has relied on a number of sources, including organisational records related to the Rockdale Family Day Care Scheme in south west Sydney. Surveys, questionnaires, and minutes of meetings have been analysed in order to evaluate the actions and responses of the local community. Unpublished diaries, letters, and speeches have also been used, along with a series of interviews conducted with a number of “key informants”. These include four women who, as “day care mothers,” began working with Rockdale Family Day Care when the scheme first started, and two staff of the Sydney Rescue Work Society, the sponsoring organisation of the Rockdale Family Day Care scheme: Bruce Thornton, the Chief Executive Officer, who was responsible for instigating the service, and Audrey Brewer, the first Co-ordinator of the scheme.24 Certainly, responses from these interviews, and archival material cannot be generalised to all carers, parents, staff or sponsor representatives who began working with the scheme. However, a qualitative approach can indicate the necessity for interpretations of contradictions and inconsistencies, not only with quantitative material, but also within an interview, as for instance between dominant ideologies, memories, and women’s actual practices.

Founded by George Ardell, the Sydney Rescue Work Society began supporting homes for the provision of care for families during the late nineteenth century.25 Based on a philosophy of social conscience and philanthropy, Roslyn Hall was established at Rockdale in 1904 to provide residential care for up to thirty-two deserted, orphaned or neglected babies and young children.26 Children were often placed in the home by single parents who “couldn’t cope,” or until their parents “could get on to their feet.” Later, state government departments such as the Department of Youth, Ethnic and Community Affairs brought to the home children who had been supposedly abandoned. Audrey recollected that as Matron of the children’s home from the mid 1960s, she “had a dream that at some time, we would have different services, so that we could do what was best for that child,” rather than parents in times of financial or emotional stress having to place their children in residential care.27 Until at least the early 1970s, pedagogical and sociological research generally reflected the common view held amongst western nations that young children were best cared for by their mother in the family home.28 This belief was mirrored in a corresponding lack of government commitment to the provision of childcare unless families or children were perceived as being in desperate need. Both Bruce and Audrey stressed that changes to the structure and management of Roslyn Hall during the 1970s were partly in response to the sponsoring organisation’s recognition that families should be able to make choices about what was best for their children.29

To some extent, this period was viewed as a time when attitudes towards “mothering” and “family life” were in crisis. The media promoted the idea that while women could gain extra financial security, independence, and satisfaction from paid employment, combined responsibilities for paid and unpaid “work” made women’s lives more complicated and demanding. An advertisement projected at women to increase sales for a popular Sydney newspaper proclaimed in 1976, that “The Sun offers a welcome relief from housework, office work, the kids and the kitchen.”30 Another article in the Sun Herald suggested that authorities in the Anglican church were reconsidering their decision that women should not have to promise to “obey” their husbands in the marriage ceremony, because of the number of requests that the Church had received from both women and men. Husbands-to-be were informed that they once again could assume control “of their modern marriages,” and “look forward to wearing the trousers again after taking a back seat during International Women’s Year.”31 Groups such as the Right to Life Association, the Festival of Light, the Women’s Action Alliance, and Women Who Want to be Women, perceived militant feminism as a threat to the family, undermining Christian morality, and devaluing the work of full time wives and mothers.32

Certainly, it would seem that the motives of the government were partly driven by a concern that families, rather than individuals, should be given “proper support” in order to adequately care for their children. From December 1975, in addition to three existing pilot services, a further seventeen Family Day schemes were established in New South Wales, one of these being Rockdale. The Australian Assistance Plan stressed that funds would be available for children’s services that focused on support for families in the form of counselling, education and/or the provision of child care. 33

At its conception, the Rockdale Family Day Care scheme was invited to join The Child and Family Welfare Council of Australia, the main purpose of this organisation being “to protect and promote the welfare of children and youth by increasing knowledge and advancing popular understanding of the needs of all children.”34

A letter announcing the establishment of the Rockdale scheme, stated: “Priority is given to children in Special Need and a special subsidy is available for the care of children of needy families.”35 As the sponsoring body, the Sydney Rescue Work Society received an operations and equipment grant from the Commonwealth government. Once fifteen children were registered with the scheme, a subsidy was available to those families who were considered to be economically or socially disadvantaged. Statistical information for March 1977 forwarded to the Office of Child Care shows that of the 126 children in care, 33% of children were identified as the responsibility of sole parents, and a further 19% were perceived as being of special need.36 Despite some vehement opposition, working women had successfully lobbied the State and influenced public policy, during the decade between 1965—75. Single women also gained acknowledgment of their right to support and financial independence.37 However, the emphasised trade off was that these women were to be offered a choice between accountable, supervised and subsidised child-care, or unscrutinised and perhaps risky private arrangements.38

Notwithstanding differences in class, education, ethnicity, and age, women were often defined by their biological potential to reproduce, and by their perceived inherent capability and willingness to nurture. An article entitled “Bless these ‘Babysitters’,” published in the Woman’s Day magazine in May 1977 stressed that women as mothers, responsible for the care of children shared a “common link,” and that Family Day Care was a means by which these groups “through direction” could “help each other.” The author’s “marvelous babysitter”, a private child minder, was considered to be “competent and reliable as well as warm and loving.” However, her selection was considered as “just luck.” The article explained the lengthy process that the prospective day care mother undertook before receiving a licence in the Manly scheme. It was noted that the care provider continued to receive unannounced fortnightly visits from a Child Development Officer, who as a qualified pre-school teacher “could guide the mothers in creative activities for the children.” A co-ordinator suggested: “The ones I choose are less concerned about what they’ll earn than about finding something satisfying to do.”39

As Director of the Rockdale Family Day Care scheme, Audrey intimated that women working as day care mothers in Rockdale were “doing it for the love of children, not just for money.” An application form for women applying to register as a “Carer,” listed the following qualities to be rated from low to high; the ability to communicate; loves, understands and is sensitive to children; ability to handle/communicate with children; realistic approach to tasks of minding and awareness of responsibility; and lastly, experience/knowledge.40 The ways in which these capabilities were to be measured was not elaborated upon. Ideology surrounding the work of the day care mother was, to some extent, romanticised and idealised as something beyond price, that could not adequately be bought or paid for.

Similarly, a research project conducted several years later by The Council of Social Services NSW found that parents accessing three metropolitan Family Day Care schemes generally equated quality care with the personal characteristics of the child carer.41 The study proposed that parents and carers perceived Family Day Care as “essentially substitute mothering” with support and supervision distinguishing this from private child minding. It was also suggested that staff sometimes subconsciously supported the low self-esteem of carers, “since any ‘normal’ woman is supposedly able to perform the Day Care Mother’s task—caring for children—with ease.”42 If caring was viewed as “real work” and as a potentially professional occupation then this could reduce the Day Care Mother’s desire to emphasise her mothering qualities to the detriment of her caring skills.43 It was assumed by the authors that generally parents appeared to hold carers in great respect, “acknowledging the long hours worked for little remuneration in caring for children as well as the Day Care Mothers’ isolation.” From this was drawn the supposition that because the carers’ perceptions of parental assessment markedly differed from that of parents, this “reflects the carers’ own opinions of their role and low self- esteem.”44

However, it could also be argued that carers were realistically responding to parents not always observing or co- operating with arrangements made for their children’s care. A letter forwarded to all parents in the Rockdale scheme emphasised that families should not “use extra hours” unless these had been booked with the caregiver. Parents were also advised that they needed to accompany their child to the Family Day Care home, that children needed to be sent with adequate clothes, and food, and should not be sent in to care when sick. In conclusion, the letter stated that “Courtesy and respect for the Caregiver’s house and her family’s privacy is expected by all parents.”45

Day care mothers were sometimes able to draw upon the support of Co-ordination Unit staff as allies in their struggle to have “mothering” recognised as a legitimate occupation, due higher status, and worthy of payment. At a Departmental meeting, Co-ordinators reported that “some migrant families were discouraged by the cost of belonging to the Scheme at $20 per week, as $10 to $15 was the average charge to leave their children in private minding centres.” Rather than decreasing Family Day Care fees further, the minutes of the meeting stated that the public, and prospective parents, needed to be “educated” about the unique benefits of Family Day Care, and how it differed from other Long Day Care services.46 Despite Federal Government financial support, Family Day Care was still not necessarily the cheapest option for parents seeking affordable child care.

Responsible for the overall administration of the Rockdale scheme, the Executive Officer, Bruce Thornton, viewed Family Day Care as a means by which carers and staff who achieved formal qualifications developed their skills and expertise, and often, “became extremely competent professionals.” Bruce suggested that the demand for the labour of women as day care mothers “fitted in with the idea of women having options for childcare and employment.” Although Bruce acknowledged that care providers were really earning “pin money,” he stressed that “day care mothers” were given additional support in the form of playgroups, visits, and access to a toy library.47 In addition, while home based child care workers were considered to be outworkers by academics, and unionists, they were defined as self-employed by the taxation department, and as such were able to claim deductions for items used in conducting their business.48 The development of Rockdale Family Day Care reflects contradictory visions of what an ideal home based children’s service could offer, and the reality of shifting power relations between various interest groups.

None of the four women who were interviewed suggested that money was their prime motivation for choosing to be “day care mothers”. Deirdre indicated that what she most enjoyed about Family Day Care was “watching the children grow and develop,” and that she gained satisfaction from knowing “that they are now quite nice people,” with many of the parents still keeping in touch twenty years later.49 Mollie also indicated that she still sees parents and children that “used care” with her.50 For Elizabeth, Family Day Care “was very good . . . It got me together with other mothers, and I love children, I still work with children.”51 Lesley expressed pride in the photo albums and records of the seventy-nine children she had cared for, but said there had been a lot more than that, if she counted casual placements.52 The women appeared to gain pleasure from the personal relationships that they developed with the children, their families, and other mothers, as well as a sense of achievement from contributing to the welfare of others within the community.

The operation of Family Day Care within the home could also be used to justify a shift in alliances, a redistribution of power relations, or result in ambiguous outcomes for care providers, individual members of their family, parents or staff. Deirdre recalled that she left school at fifteen years of age, worked as a clothing machinist, and then married four years later. Her husband worked shifts, and she had to be “pretty independent.” But then Deirdre reiterated that her husband was always there for her, and the children: “They treat him like a Day Care Father. I don’t drive, so he drives us…anywhere we want to go.”53 All members of the family, including Deidre’s three children were expected to compromise and assist with her work. Lesley recalled that she had a “full on career,” as a Supervisor in a major company, before she married under her husband’s condition that she leave work, and that they would have a childless marriage. Six years later, Lesley recollected that she “got clucky” after a girlfriend became pregnant, and then “had a perfect daughter,” who “did not create any work.” The family then moved to Rockdale, where Lesley started permanent work with Family Day Care. Lesley claimed that she had a “very strong personality,” but recalled that the first child who started in care with her came from a Cantonese family,” and the experience was “very daunting,” as the child’s mother, and sister “walked through and took over the house.” But, she said: “I learnt to stand my ground, and have never had any trouble since.” Lesley also suggested that, at first, her husband was very resistant to Family Day Care, as he came from an “older generation” which believed that a “wife doesn’t work.” Once he realised the contribution that she was making to the care of the children coming into their home, Lesley stated that her husband was “incredibly supportive,” and assisted her by doing work around the house that she requested.54 Lesley began her narrative by emphasising how important her previous work had been, and then follows with how little her needs were taken into consideration after marriage. The story finishes by Lesley stressing that Family Day Care has enabled her to once again assume control of her life and the household.

Certainly, it would be expected that these carers who were interviewed, given their length of service with the scheme, would like to consider that they have gained some sort of satisfaction from caring for children, and would be reluctant to focus on the negative aspects of their work. Indeed, Audrey intimated that not all day care mothers were so altruistic or self sacrificing that they would ignore their own needs, provide care for any child that was referred to them, or necessarily co-operate with the Child Development Officers from the Co-ordination Unit. Audrey diplomatically suggested that there had always been a minority of carers who provided better care for babies, in that activities for older children were not a priority of their service.55

In Caring for Australia’s Children, Brennan and O’Donnell argue that the political consciousness of home based child care workers has been limited because they have been continually “confronted” with prevailing ideology which suggests that caring for children is an extension of women’s natural role in mothering.56 Wyse similarly proposes that by demanding wages and working conditions commensurate for the work that they perform, women, as carers of children appear to contradict their commitment and integrity.57 However, this is only a partially correct analysis. While promotional material certainly emphasised the “mothering” aspect of caring for children, the debates surrounding the development of Family Day Care also offered contradictions to the idea that women were naturally good at loving, caring and nurturing children, and that therefore, their work was of little value.

In stressing how important the family environment and a knowledge of child development was with relation to the selection and training of care givers, academic researchers and child care professionals acknowledged that nurturing skills were gained from experience, learnt from families, friends or relatives, and extended by training. Family Day Care offered the possibility of achieving a synthesis or compromise between those who argued that women would only achieve equality by participating in the paid workforce, and those who believed that women as mothers had different needs that needed to be taken into account. Social policy stressed the particular needs of poor, working class, and immigrant families, which justified the federal government supporting the provision and expansion of a home based children’s service. Interviewed staff, and care providers that had worked with Rockdale Family Day Care since its inception, valued the “caring” or emotional aspects of their work. To some extent, they have gained a different understanding of child care and education within the domestic setting, as not just being something that “mothers are instinctively good at” but as work in its own right, which deserves to be recognised as worthy of payment, and to have a higher status within the community. Used in isolation, concepts such as “empowerment” and “exploitation” deny a dialectical process in which the meaning that day care mothers attached to their work contested structurally defined limits.

Centre based workers working with the union movement have been successful in achieving award status with the Industrial Relations Commission, although it should be acknowledged that their work is still undervalued in comparison to other occupations which require professional qualifications.58 However, the majority of Family Day Care providers in New South Wales are deemed to be self employed. As such, these workers have no access to leave provisions, superannuation or industrial protection. Yet, Scheme sponsors and the Federal Government successfully appealed against an Industrial Relations commission ruling that granted award status to Family Day Care providers in 1989, fearing that the cost of providing the service would become prohibitive. The president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Martin Ferguson, suggested that an award for care providers would be adopted as party policy at the Australian Labor Party (ALP) conference to held in September, 1994.59 However, care providers who attended the National Family Day Care conference held in Queensland in the same month, petitioned Senator Rosemary Crowley to withdraw this item from the ALP conference, citing lack of consultation with Family Day Care, limited information, undue haste in proceedings, and inaccuracy of ACTU press statements.60 A letter addressed to the Sydney Morning Herald, by the President of the NSW Family Day Care Carer’s Association, Jan McGrath, stated “that one could almost be forgiven for imagining the President of the ACTU, Martin Ferguson, donning his shining suit of armour, mounting his white charger and riding off to rescue the damsel in distress.” Jan wrote of her pride in being a self-employed business person, and how she, and “many, many other NSW Carers” that she had spoken to, rejected union intervention in their business affairs.61

Yet, the belief that Family Day Care began and continues as a cheap option for the provision of child care still exists. The federal government announced in May, 1995 that $264 million dollars would be “slashed” from community child care centres during the following four years, diverting some of these funds to additional family day care places. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald proclaimed that “Fears that improved wages would destroy the system’s affordability and lead to its collapse have kept workers in line.”62 All family day care schemes now charge a combination of carer and parent levies to maintain standards of service by the Co-ordination Unit. The private sector have argued that Family Day Care should no longer be subsidised by the government. In 1997, the Australian Confederation of Child Care described Family Day Care as “poor quality backyard care going on behind closed doors by unqualified workers who are unaccredited and generally licenced.”63 Family Day Care was depicted as a “home based ‘cottage’ industry” and it was argued that “each group of children in home based care is taking away a qualified child care workers job.”64

In 1993, Marian Sawer expressed her concern that “the grand narrative” of Australian social liberal history with its focus on community development would be replaced with “self-regulating market liberalism,” to the detriment of “the public organisation of caring.”65 Family Day Care’s share of the child care market has dropped from a peak of about fifty per cent in the 1980s, to about twenty-five percent in 1998, accompanied by a dramatic increase in the numbers of private child care centre providers.66 That year, the Co-ordinator of the Manly Family Day Care Scheme, Mrs Anne Smith, informed the Sydney Morning Herald of the difficulty the co-ordination unit was having in attracting care providers, who for $135 would be expected to provide care for one child, for a thirty-eight hour week. She pointed out that parents would pay in excess of $150 a week per full time child in centre-based care.67 Care providers are expected to undertake additional training provided by the co-ordination unit, or a registered college, hold a first aid certificate, and undergo rigorous safety checks on their home in order to ensure that a professional service is provided.

Family Day Care has been recently described as “moving steadily towards a system of quality accreditation, which will provide even more security for parents.”68 Yet, by reinventing Family Day Care as a professional occupation, or as a business operation, the state is no longer co-opted into “women friendly policies” or ensuring that social justice and equity are issues that need to be addressed. It remains to be seen how the value placed upon Family Day Care workers and “mothering,” as “being beyond price,” will be affected by these conflicting strategies.

1 This article is based on a fourth year thesis written in the History Dept, University of Newcastle, 1998, under the supervision of Professor John Ramsland and Dr Hilary Carey.


2 Australian Department of Labour OECD Study, The Role of Women in the Economy, June 1973, Canberra: AGPS, 1974, viii-ix.
3 Relevant data cited from CBCS census of 1966, and 1971, Australian Department of Labour OECD Study, The Role of Women, 119-121.
4 Australian Department of Labour OECD Study, The Role of Women, 5,14.
5 Australian Department of Labour OECD Study, The Role of Women, 14.
6 Australian Department of Labour OECD Study, The Role of Women, xi.
7 John Bowlby, Maternal Care and Mental Health, Geneva: World Health Organisation, 1952,11,13; “Memorandum on Some Aspects of the Welfare of Infants and Children Aged Under Three Years Whose Mothers are in Full-time Employment,” Medical Journal of Australia 1.8, 1971, 446-48.
8 Joan Bielski, “Women in the Workforce: The State as an Employer,” Australian Quarterly Vol. 45, No. 3, 1973.
9 See M. Robertson, Family Day Care in Australia, Black Rock: Creswick Foundation and the Children’s Bureau of Aust, 1985; Deborah Brennan and Carol O’Donnell, Caring for Australia’s Children: Political and Industrial Issues in Child Care, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1986; Elizabeth J. Mellor, Stepping Stones: The Development of Early Childhood Services in Australia, Marrickville NSW: Harcourt,1990.
10 A. M. Burns et. al., An Alternative in Quality Child Care: A Study of the Feasibility of Family Day Care in an Inner City and an Outer Suburban Area of Sydney, Macquarie U: School of Behavioural Sciences, 1975, 94.
11 Australian Government Social Welfare Commission, Project Care, Children, Parents, Community, Canberra: AGPS, 1974.
12 Australian Pre-Schools Committee. Care and Education of Young Children: Report of the Australian Pre-Schools Committee November 1973 (Fry Report), Parliamentary Paper No. 279, Canberra: GPOA, 1974.
13 Australian Pre-Schools Committee, Care and Education, p.xii. 35, 40.
14 Brotherhood of St Laurence, First Report—Comparative Evaluation of Three Melbourne “Family Day Care” Projects, March 1975.
15 For instance, Anne Summers, Damned Whores and God’s Police: The Colonization of Women in Australia, Melbourne, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975.
16 See Kerreen Reiger, Family Economy, Ringwood: McPhee Gribble, 1991, 6.
17 Betterton, Looking On: Images of Femininity in the Visual Arts and Media, London, Pandora, 1987, 13.
18 Edna Ryan and Anne Conlon, Gentle Invaders: Australian Women at Work 1788-1974, Melbourne: Nelson, 1975, 23.
19 For a narrative of developments in Australian women’s history, see Patricia Grimshaw, “Writing the History of Australian Women,” in Writing Womens History, International Perspectives, ed. Karen Offen et. al., Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1991.
20 Beverley Kingston, My Wife, My Daughter and Poor Mary Ann, Melbourne: Thomas Nelson Aust, 1977 edit.
21 Kingston, My Wife, 7.
22 Kingston, My Wife, 5.
23 For an overview, see Ann Curthoys, “Australian Feminism since 1970,” in Australian Women Contemporary Feminist Thought, eds Norma Grieve & Ailsa Burns, Melbourne: Oxford U.P., 1994, 25-6.
24 Tapes and transcripts in author’s possession.
25 Lindsay J. Warwick, “A Word From the Superintendent,” Eighty Eighth Annual Report, 1970, 2, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
26 Thornton to South West Regional Council for Social Development, Rockdale, 10 Oct. 1974, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
27 Audrey Brewer, interview, 25 Aug. 1998.
 28 For instance: Anon., “Memorandum on Some Aspects of the Welfare of Infants and Children Aged Under Three Years Whose Mothers are in Full- time Employment,” Medical Journal of Australia Vol. 1, No. 8, 1971, 446-48, John Bowlby, Maternal Care and Mental Health, Geneva: World Health Organisation, 1952, 11,13.
29 Thornton, interview, 13 Aug., 1998; Brewer, interview.
30 “For Women: Everything but the Kitchen Sink,” Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Feb. 1976, 4.
31 Martin Saxon, “Anglican Wives Can Choose to Obey Again,” Sun Herald, 8 Feb, 1976, 2.
32 Frank Crowley, Tough Times: Australia in the Seventies, Richmond: Heinemann, 1986, 222.
33 Rockdale Family Care Committee to local family/child care agencies, “Australian Assistance Plan,” 23 July 1975, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
34 The Child and Family Welfare Council of Australia to Co-ordinator of Rockdale FDC, 24 April 1975, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
35 Thornton to Anon, “New Child Care Scheme” n.d., FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
36 Rockdale Family Day Care, Figures for the Office of Child Care, March 1977, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale. This data is consistent with a later study conducted in 1980, She’s the Perfect Substitute Mother, which found that child care centres had a similar proportion of lone parents, 38% in centre care as opposed to 32% in FDC.
37 Shurlee Swain with Renate Howe, Single Mothers and their Children: Disposal, Punishment and Survival in Australia, Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1995, 206.
38 Dept. of Youth, Ethnic and Community Affairs, Minutes Family Day Care Co-ordinators’ Meeting, 14 Dec. 1975, 1-2, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
39 Jacqueline Kemeny, “Bless these “Babysitters,” Woman’s Day, 2 May 1977,14.
40 “Application to Care for Children in Own Home—Office Use Only”, 1977/78, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
41 Council of Social Service of NSW, “She’s The Perfect Substitute Mother!”—An Evaluation of Family Day Care, The Family and Children’s Services Agency of NSW, Sydney, Oct. 1980, 64.
42 Perfect Substitute Mother, iv.
43 Perfect Substitute Mother , 40.
44 Perfect Substitute Mother.
45 Roslyn Hall FDC Service to parents, FDC 10-A, 1997/8, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
46 Dept. Youth, Ethnic and Community Affairs, Minutes, 2, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
47 Thornton, interview.
48 See Australian Taxation Office to NSW FDC Association, 27 June 1978, FDC Papers, SRWS, Rockdale.
49 Deirdre Black (pseudonym), interview, 1 Oct. 1998.
50 Mollie Wright (pseudonym), interview, 24 August, 1998
51 Elizabeth Goodall (pseudonym), interview, 1 Oct. 1998.
52 Lesley Harris (pseudonym), interview, 27 Aug. 1998.
53 Deirdre, interview.
54 Lesley, interview.
55 Brewer, interview.
56 Deborah Brennan and Carol O”Donnell, Caring for Australia’s Children: Political and Industrial Issues in Child Care, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1986. 94.
57 T. Wyse, “Industrial Issues in Family Day Care,” 1983 cited in A. Petrie, “An Australian Fairytale: Does the Cinderella of Early Childhood Services get to go the Ball?” Papers from Third International Family Day Care Organisation Conference, Richmond NSW, 1991, 11.
58 See Submission from Federated Miscellaneous Works Union and the ACTU, to Commissioner Laing of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, August 1988. In 1995 the ACTU estimated that the average family day carer earned between $13,000 and $19,000. In comparison, an untrained assistant in a child care centre who helped the trained staff received about $23,000. Adele Horin “Family Day Care Needs Government Help,” Sydney Morning Herald, 5 May 1995, 18.
59 “Pay bid for home child care,” Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Aug. 1994, 11.
60 NSW FDC Industrial Working Party, to Carers, Parents, Staff and Sponsors of FDC in NSW, 10 Oct. 1994. In possession of author.
61 Jan McGrath to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald, n.d., in possession of author.
62 Horin, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 May 1995:18.
63 Australian Confederation of Child Care, Private Child Care Sector Comment on 1997/98 Budget Initiatives, July 1997, 12; See also “Child-Carers Unqualified, Says Study”, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Sept. 1995, 3; “Food, Clothing Sacrificed to Meet Child Care Fees,” Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Nov. 1997, 17.
64  Australian Confederation of Child Care. Private Child Care, 15.
65 Marian Sawer, “Reclaiming Social Liberalism” in Renate Howe, ed. Women and the State, La Trobe Uni.: UP,1993, 20-1.
66 See “From the Director’s Desk,” Jigsaw, 10, Spring 1998, 4; Census of Child Care Services cited in National Family Day Care Council Association, “Student Kit,” 2001.
67 Gretchen Miller, “Funding Cuts Put Scare Into Day Care,” Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Jan. 1998.
68 Sally Loane, “Family Day Care was good news for TV’s Angela,” Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Mar. 1998, 18.