Challenging times in NSW and QLD as drought hits hard, impacting ECEC
Kindergartens and outside school hours care settings in regional areas of Queensland and New South Wales are at risk of closure due to the ongoing drought situation in both states, ABC News has reported.
Many not-for-profit services in smaller communities rely on donations of time (to conduct fundraising activities, or to volunteer in programs) or money to remain viable. With many farming families stepping in to do more of the work on properties themselves as the drought eats into financial reserves, both time and money are in short supply.
As a result, the ABC News story noted, families are unsupported, children are missing valuable opportunities for early learning, and staff positions are in jeopardy. Many parents in the affected communities fear that if schools, kindergartens and child care services close, they may never re-open.
The crisis has prompted intervention from the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA), who has been pushing for Federal intervention, arguing that without assistance, some early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings and schools in relevant communities will not be able to see it through to the end of the drought.
With many rural communities reliant on the land as a primary source of income, the continuing drought has impacted local children, who are going without essentials.
ICPA Federal president Wendy Hick said it was up to the Federal Government to intervene, calling for help in establishing a rural education hardship fund, which would remain permanently in place to ensure funding was available to support rural communities to continue providing education in times of drought.
Speaking to the ABC from the southern Queensland border town of Texas, President of the Texas and District Kindergarten Katie Smith said the pressures of the drought were of great concern for the kindergarten, which is run by a volunteer parent committee.
The kindergarten has been operational in the community for 60 years, and relies on community fundraising to prop up student fees and government subsidies.Because of the pressures of the drought, the amount of money raised this year is almost half of what was available last year, which has left the kindergarten unable to pay for essentials like staff wages, electricity and insurance.
Ms Smith told the ABC that without those crucial funds, the future of the Texas and District Kindergarten looks grim.
“It is a real risk of closing if we don’t pull a rabbit out of a hat and come up with something quite significant. It would be very sad to see our service close, because typically you wouldn’t see it reopen, should it close in a small town.”
This is a scenario which has played out further north in Queensland, where Glenmorgan has lost its kindergarten due to ongoing enrolment challenges, impacted by the drought. As a result, many parents in the District are undertaking ECEC responsibilities in their homes, with services remaining open too far away to be reasonably accessed a few times a week.
To read the original coverage of this story, as produced by the ABC, please see here.