Around 10,000 families will have to make other arrangements for their children when childcare workers strike this week in a push to address "appalling levels" of pay in the sector.
Staff at major centres across the country will stop work at 3.20pm on Thursday, forcing parents to arrange early pick-ups.
Employees, in one of Australia's lowest paying industries, say that is the time of the week that they start effectively working for free.
The union representing the workers, United Voice, said it would be "the biggest early education walk off in Australian history".
"Frustrated that the government is continually failing to address the equal pay issue, thousands of early childhood educators are escalating their action. In an unprecedented move, it will be the second walk off this year in their fight for professional pay," the union said in a statement.
Early childhood educator Amy Thomas told HuffPost Australia there were some weeks she barely made ends meet due to the high cost of childcare for her daughter.
"There are some weeks we are forced to choose between food for the adults or paying bills," she said.
United Voice Assistant National Secretary Helen Gibbons said early childhood educators received "appalling levels of pay".
"They are a highly-educated, skilled workforce but only earn around $21 an hour. As long as the government continues to ignore them and pass the buck on funding equal pay, from here on in they will continue to escalate their action," she said.