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EDITORIAL: Childcare pain

The lack of childcare places in the Wimmera is truly a concern.

Officially, there is an estimated 300 children on waiting lists across the Wimmera and southern Mallee, but By Five executive officer Jo Martin believes the number could be more than 400.

By Five Wimmera Southern Mallee Early Years Initiative is a community collaboration committed to ensuring every child and family has access to consistent, quality early years services.

Towns where a service doesn’t exist at all, of which there are many across the region, don’t have an official waiting list, so the number is unknown.

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Hopetoun lost its only childcare service in late March due not being able to attract suitably-qualified candidates to fill staffing positions.

Hopetoun Uniting Early Learning Centre closed indefinitely in April, but work is continuing behind the scenes to reinstate the service.

Uniting Vic Tas confirmed it had two positive interviews last week, and has a further person being followed up.

The small Yarriambiack town hit the national ABC webpage last week, with parents saying they felt left with the choice of either quitting their jobs or moving away from the region. This is the last thing the region needs. Attracting people, particularly those working and contributing to our region, to live in our region is critical to its prosperity.

In some good news, Horsham Rural City Council has made available its Kalkee Road Children’s and Community Hub to a private childcare provider.

While full details are yet to be confirmed, the new provider is set to offer more than 90 new long day care places by August.

The council plan to help ease the Wimmera’s severe childcare shortage was made possible by Emerge Early Learning Services shifting its kindergarten program to a new Horsham North facility.

Mayor Robyn Gulline said Emerge Early Learning Services secured funding to move to the new two-room kindergarten at the Rasmussen Road school, which made three rooms at the hub now vacant.

She said an announcement would be made ‘shortly’ with details about the new childcare provider.

Cr Gulline also confirmed there had been no reduction in kindergarten places in Horsham – in fact the new provider would also offer a kindergarten program.

“By reverting Kalkee Road Children’s and Community Hub to the original design and use, which was for long day care and in-venue kindergarten, we hope to ease the critical long day care shortage,” she said.

Maternal and child health services and supported playgroup will also continue to operate from the hub alongside the long day care.

While this will help ease childcare needs in Horsham, what about the smaller towns in our region?

Childcare providers do not necessarily see the small towns as a profitable venture, and this is where the government, all levels of government, need to step up.

Incentives, rebates, subsidies, grants – or just building their own service – whatever it takes needs to be looked at with urgency.

The entire May 1, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!