Childcare services in the Pilbara battling staff shortages and burgeoning waitlists have had their endorsement fees waived for applications to the Pilbara Designated Area Migration Agreement to help operators attract staff. The Pilbara’s childcare waitlists continue to grow as operators battle a staffing crisis, with a One Tree Community Services spokesperson saying the region currently had 1000 children waiting for placements. The Pilbara Designated Area Migration Agreement is a five-year agreement between the Federal Government and Regional Development Australia in partnership with the City of Karratha and the Town of Port Hedland. The agreement, signed by Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on March 30, will provide pathways for employers to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers for positions they are unable to fill with Australian workers. It covers 66 occupations, including trades and machinery operation, engineers and trades to support the resource industries, and key service occupations, including aged and child care and health services. RDA Pilbara announced on June 21 that endorsement fees would be waived for operators to help fill vacant positions. It is hoped this would open more places in childcare centres that have previously not been able to be filled because of the shortage of skilled educators. A spokesperson for One Tree said the industry was in the middle of a sector-wide early education staffing crisis. “Low educator numbers are impacting the availability of care across Australia,” she said. “The regional and remote locations One Tree works with are feeling this shortage more keenly. “For example, in the Pilbara there are over 1000 children on waitlists.” She said the DAMA waiver allows One Tree to access a skilled international educator workforce and grow their team to care for as many children as possible in these places. RDA Pilbara chair Nerida Kickett said it was important for families and businesses to have childcare support available so that both parents were able to work. City of Karratha Deputy Mayor Kelly Nunn said the City was pleased to see RDA further supporting businesses to attract critical service workers. “We know child care is one of the industries greatly suffering from critical labour shortages and aware of the severe impact this has on Pilbara-based families,” she said. “Supporting businesses to fill essential roles such as child care is precisely the reason the City pursued a DAMA,” she said. Town of Port Hedland Mayor Peter Carter said access to quality child care played a vital role in building strong regional communities. “Creating more childcare places will not only help attract families to the Pilbara and improve retainment but will also support parents and carers with the opportunity to take up employment or increase their hours at local businesses and companies, which are also experiencing recruitment challenges,” he said.