Member for Indi questions Tehan on rural childcare closures
The potential closure of seven mobile childcare services in the Albury Wodonga region bordering Victoria and New South Wales has been given a temporary reprieve thanks to the actions of the Member for Indi Cathy McGowan, who has asked Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan to convene an urgent roundtable meeting to outline options for maintaining much needed childcare services in the region.
Outlining the five mobile childcare services in her electorate scheduled to close by Christmas, along with two services in the neighbouring electorate of Farrer, Ms McGowan said the impact on the region would be significant, with up to 60 children and 20 staff affected. Mobile childcare services have been operating the community for 30 years, Ms McGowan said, calling for a conversation which would allow parents, providers, staff and local government the opportunity to outline the significance of the closures.
Mr Tehan thanked Ms McGowan for raising the issue, and for the co-operative approach taken by those involved, before adding that he had communicated with Albury Wodonga Community College (AWCC) CEO Rod Wangman who was “very keen to make sure we can get some interim arrangements in place” and “make sure that we can, especially for those families, get services provided for next year”.
AWCC currently provides mobile childcare services to the Albury Wodonga region, with the areas impacted by the pending closure being Mitta Mitta, Walwa, Kergunyah, Baranduda and Bellbridge.
Mr Tehan suggested two meetings, one in NSW and the other in Victoria, to allow all the relevant parties an opportunity to ensure that services continued in the region moving forward.
The services slated to close had reportedly been driven to this position by the transition to the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) on 1 July 2018, having previously been funded through a budget-based funding model. The dual impact of the funding change and lower attendance at some venues had applied financial pressure to the services.
AWCC Chairman Kevin Poulton was quoted in The Border Mail as saying AWCC had underwritten average annual losses of $30,000 for the past eight years, but that the introduction of CCS had “increased the losses tenfold”.
“The accumulated losses are well beyond our capacity to sustain and it is our view there is little likelihood of any significant government policy change that would rectify the present monthly losses or repay the significant funds AWCC has used to support (community early years centres) service locations,” The Border Mail quotes Mr Poulton as saying.
He then added that the closure decision was unfortunate, apologising for the inconvenience caused, and vowing to continue to advocate for better rural childcare opportunities.
“We didn’t decide the funding policy but we do now decide that the many factors at play, including lower attendances, we must rationalise and unfortunately that means closures.” Mr Poulton said.