For the first time ever in its history, the Screen Forever conference has offered a free creche to delegates. The service – a joint initiative between the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), Create NSW, Screen Producers Australia and Women in Film and Television (WIFT) – was situated on site at the 2018 event’s Crown Conference Centre location and was managed by childcare provider Crechendo. The creche accommodated up to twenty children.
Returning to work after becoming a parent can be tough – less sleep, zero time to yourself and the stress of balancing the demands of employment. While a lot of workplaces have begun to offer flexible arrangements to working parents, they don’t tend to account for or extend these to networking opportunities and conferences. Work-related events often fall on childcare days or clash with part-time hours, and it’s even trickier when functions spill over into the evening.
Families have different set-ups when it comes to who cares for their kids when work calls: partners, relatives, neighbours, friends, nannies. And there’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to the complexities of swapping childcare days at short notice. The demand for childcare in Australia is so high that there’s rarely any wriggle room in providers’ schedules. So asking a parent to reschedule their childcare days is like asking to broker world peace.
When it comes to the screen industry, it’s often much easier for working parents to pass up opportunities because they’re not worth the stress of juggling childcare options. A by-product of this is that parents then find it harder to sustain their careers; their absence from events, in turn, misleads the industry into believing that it isn’t always possible to work and be a parent.
But Screen Forever has sent the message that you can be both. In the lead-up to the creche’s launch, SAFC CEO Courtney Gibson said, ‘Being parents and carers shouldn’t negatively impact our ability to work, just as our work shouldn’t negatively impact our ability to look after our families. Access and flexibility are the cornerstones of diversity in any industry and the Screen Forever creche has the screen industry showing leadership in relation to both.’
In this way, Screen Forever has created a standard not only for screen-industry events, but for business conferences in general. It’s the little things that go a long way in terms of supporting people in their careers, especially if the Australian sector is truly dedicated to helping more women find work as screen professionals.
Also prior to the launch, WIFT NSW president and WIFT Australia board member Megan Riakos noted, ‘Raising a family is often viewed as a career obstacle, particularly affecting women’s participation in the Australian screen industry. We see this as […] an important step forward in acknowledging and providing support for all parents, while kickstarting a broader conversation about how we can work together to create a more family friendly industry.’
A lot of people have the career drive, but participation remains a huge barrier for working parents and those transitioning into their new work–life balance – so having childcare options built into the industry, like what Screen Forever has offered, is a game changer. It’s also huge for people considering having children because they now know they’ll be supported by the industry should they ever decide to make the leap; no more waiting for the ideal time.
At the 2018 conference, WIFT Australia – in partnership with Create NSW, the SAFC and the University of Technology Sydney – also released the results of Raising Films Australia’s screen-industry survey (see below), which examined the issues affecting parents and carers employed in the screen sector. This was supplemented by announcements from Create NSW and the SAFC regarding changes they would be making to the way they do business so as to better serve families with children.
Of course, making sure these initiatives are sustainable is the next important step – as well as ensuring the supply-and-demand relationship doesn’t become unwieldy, much like it has with regular childcare in Australia. This development is ultimately about evolving towards more inclusion, and the local screen industry is showing signs of becoming a leader in this space – one creche at a time.