Residents of Crystal Brook say struggling for ECEC options is hampering town economy
Residents of Crystal Brook, a small farming community in regional South Australia, a couple of hours’ north of Adelaide, say that the lack of early childhood education and care (ECEC) options in the town is limiting the town’s growth, and making it less appealing for existing and prospective residents.
Since 2015, local doctor Kean Chen has worked with a committee of like minded locals to try and introduce options for education and care, with the committee believing that having ECEC available would make the town more attractive to professionals from around South Australia, as well as interstate.
“It certainly makes it more attractive for allied health, GPs, doctors, nurses, anyone who wants to stay and work,” he told the ABC.
“We have a young workforce in our town — if we had child care, that allows people to work and have babies.”
While Dr Chen works full time, his wife Li Chei, also a medical professional, is only able to work two days a week because of the lack of childcare support.
Local mother Tamara Wilson has three children under five and wants to return to work as a teacher to utilise her Masters qualification, a situation many in the town are battling.
“It’s definitely across a lot of workforces and it’s definitely having an impact,” she said.
“For some, they’ve just resigned to the fact that it’s really difficult to get child care, so they’re not even looking into that return to work until their children are school age.”
Crystal Brook is part of the Port Pirie Regional Council area, and Council CEO Peter Ackland acknowledges the challenges in the ECEC space.
“It does impact on people’s ability to work, but also employers’ ability to attract and retain staff,” he said.
As such, the Council has pledged to look into which childcare services might work best, and urged community members to contribute their thoughts.
“There will be a survey released and what that survey will do is ask people to give us information on what their childcare needs will be currently, but also over the next two or three years,” Mr Ackland said.
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