Battling stereotypes … preschool worker Craig d'Arcy has set up the Males in Early Childhood Network Group. Photo: Greg Mace
As a young man eager to get into a boom industry with a robust future, Craig d'Arcy spent several years as the only male studying childcare alongside more than 100 women at TAFE and university in Newcastle.
Early in his career, his childcare centre boss told him parents had highlighted in yellow on their child's enrolment form they wanted no male worker to go near their offspring. Two decades on, as founder of the national Males in Early Childhood Network Group, d'Arcy has heard about centres that ban men from changing nappies and is used to people thinking those who want to work with the young are either gay or have evil intent.
So he easily recognised the vein of fear about male contact with children that popped up when two men went public recently about their embarrassment over airline staff moving them away from unaccompanied minors.
"The stereotype is that men are predators who are looking for opportunities to abuse young children," says d'Arcy, who is co-ordinator of a Mullumbimby preschool and has six children of his own. "There seems to be that automatic assumption."
Most of the 2900 men who make their living caring for under-fives butt up against these assumptions regularly in a way that their 100,000-plus female counterparts do not, he says.