A report describing the bleak landscape of Australia's childcare crisis has been released and endorsed by the Regional Australia Institute, outlining stories of struggle and frustration from every State.
The report, titled 'Choiceless', features more than 150 voices from across the country, including several from WA's Kimberley region, as well as Merredin and Augusta.
The report told the story of a Merredin mother who was admitted to a postpartum mental health unit, due to a lack of support in town.
The mother, whose identity remains anonymous, said she was unable to put her two-year-old daughter into childcare as there was a lack of places, and she "was not a priority parent" as she wasn't working at the time.
"I ended up getting my daughter in when I told them I was suffering from postpartum depression and needed respite," the woman said.
The mother said she encountered the problems again when she was looking to put her young son into childcare.
The daycare offered one day per week, and two days the second week, however this alternating schedule made it difficult for her to find a job.
The Wheatbelt mother said she considered hiring a babysitter, but the cost was far too great on top of her daughter's childcare costs.
Five of the stories from the WA portion of the report came from Broome.
They mention centre closures, not enough places for children, 12-18 month waitlists, inflexible workplaces, cost of living struggles, financial strain and a pressure on grandparents or relatives to care for children.
"My son has been on the daycare waitlist since February 2022," one participant, Meredith Brown, Broome, said.
"I had the intention of returning to work as a lawyer for a not-for-profit shortly after he turned one."
Another Broome mother, Catriona, said four days of childcare for her two children were cut back to two days for one child.
She told of constant upheaval, after five months both children had their places back, and three months later they were lost again due to staff shortages.
"We don't have family in Broome so spent the year muddling through, initially with a range of babysitters and taking leave," Catriona said.
"My partner reduced his hours by a day, and then we just had to sometimes work with the kids around us."
One mother from Augusta said some families in her community travelled more than 150 kilometres per day, to Margaret River and back for childcare.
"It's costly for time, petrol, and children are eating breakfast in the car or falling asleep on the way home which upsets the family's dinner and bedtime," she said.
A Port Hedland woman, who was 17 weeks pregnant at the time of the report, said she had been told to enrol her unborn child into childcare now to avoid long wait times.
The report noted the lack of childcare had significant impacts on the careers of women, and their stories showed cases of leaving their careers behind entirely.
In Mingenew, a project to upgrade and expand the current childcare facilities is currently facing a major obstacle, finding someone to build the new centre.
A proposal to expand the current facilities began in 2018, as the demand for places "drastically exceeded supply".
According to a project update in May, there were 11 places available.
Shire of Mingenew chief Matthew Fanning (pictured) said this number had been reduced to just nine places, operating four days a week and during school hours.
"It's a struggle for our parents, they get told five minutes before that the centre is closed for the day and that's just not good enough," Mr Fanning said.
The expansion project involves increasing capacity to 24 places, offering availability to five days per week, and including before and after school care.
The project reached its funding goal, but after the tender process failed, they've been left without a builder.
Mr Fanning has been contacting building companies, however they have wait times of over 12 months, and costs have drastically increased.
He hopes to have the centre ready to open by the start of 2025.
"We're really happy we've got the funding, now we just need to try and match the funding with the market and get something built," Mr Fanning said.
Finding staff to work at the centre will be a challenge in the future as well.
He said minimum wage and current remuneration under the childcare awards were too low to attract and retain staff, especially in regional and rural areas where other higher-paying jobs were on offer.
"They're paying minimum wage to someone who has a diploma or Cert III, I can pull coffee for $30 an hour without any qualifications," Mr Fanning said.
"It's hard work, it's not a walk in the park, there's a lot of responsibility and a lot of qualifications needed - why would you do all of that and not earn the money you could earn anywhere else?
"There's no point building new centres if you can't get staff, (the Federal government) needs to address it on both sides," he said.
At least one of the parents of all the children enrolled in the centre work part time.
The parents have expressed their frustration at the lack of reliability and how it affects their jobs.
Mr Fanning said some parents, mostly mothers, have had to forgo their employment alltogether to look after the children.
He mentioned his own partner, a nurse, who has found it difficult to find flexible opportunities, and works mostly night shift.
"She really feels she needs to work, if she doesn't, she feels trapped," Mr Fanning said.
And with the cost of living going through the roof, living on one income isn't feasible for a lot of families.
When parents can't work, it takes key services out of the community.
Mr Fanning said recently he saw an example of a WA Country Health training nurse struggling to juggle her employment with the daycare schedule.
"That's a regional impact, it's not just the town that's affected, it's the whole region," he said.
"Why shouldn't regional Australia have the same opportunities as cities?"
If you are able to support the build of the Mingenew Daycare Facility Upgrade, contact the Shire of Mingenew.