The Pilbara has been described as a child care desert with a national report finding there about six children vying for every space in childcare centres across the region. The report, Deserts and oases: How accessible is childcare in Australia, released on March 22 by Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, looked at the number of children under four years old compared to available places. The document found the East Pilbara had one of the worst availabilities in the nation with six children vying for each spot while the West Pilbara had four children per place. According to the report, Tom Price had the second greatest shortage in the nation with nine children vying for every child care place. Lead author Dr Peter Hurley said regional towns faced a complete absence of provision, especially for towns with a population of less than 1500 people. “These are not thin markets but rather an absence of a market as the current policy settings mean it is not viable for providers to offer child care,” he said. The Pilbara’s lack of child care facilities has been a growing issue over recent years with families in Port Hedland experiencing waiting lists of about two years, according to parents. A lack of available workers has also hit the industry with Port Hedland not-for-profit One Tree launching a FIFO child care program in January last year which provided 23 educators in Port Hedland, Onslow, Pannawonica, Roebourne, Paraburdoo and Derby. Hedland mother Desiree Grossmith said parents in the Port Hedland had wait times of two years to get a child into care. Ms Grossmith said building more facilities would not help if the providers were unable to get more workers. “Being a stay at home mum or stay at home parent is one of the most demanding jobs and we deserve every right to go back to work just as much as anyone else and the situation here just does not make it easy at all,” she said. Meanwhile, data released by child care comparison site Care for Kids showed the average price for child care in Wickham was $138 a day, a $5 increase between February and December last year.