When the only childcare operator in town quits: Rural workforce shortages bite in Vic | Sector

When the only childcare operator in town quits: Rural workforce shortages bite in Vic

by Freya Lucas

June 11, 2021

Families in the Victorian border town of Edenhope, which sits 30 kilometres from the South Australian border, are facing challenges with obtaining care for their children after the one person providing early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in the town announced her resignation last week. 

 

As a result of the resignation, a number of local families have had to alter their work arrangements, with some considering leaving their jobs as the juggle of the competing demands of work and family becomes more problematic.

 

Speaking with the ABC, local teacher Cassandra Stringer, a mother of three, said the nearest available care options are 45 minutes to one hour away, making it “more likely I will leave my job.”

 

Since 2017, a solitary family day care educator at an in-venue kindergarten room has served the town of 946 people and its surrounding areas, typically caring for four children per day and three after school.

 

Once the resignation was announced the approved provider of the service, Uniting, indicated that it would take “at least six weeks” to secure a replacement, leaving the community at risk of being without ECEC for the second time in three years. 

 

Uniting’s general manager for north and west Victoria, Annette Kelly-Egerton told the ABC that the provider was actively trying to recruit more carers even before the resignation, meeting with both the hospital and the Council to discuss their support of the provider’s current recruitment campaign, and exploring the option of working with local schools to further promote early learning as a career path.

 

Parents across the Edenhope, Apsley and Goroke areas continue to push West Wimmera Shire Council to fund a business case for a long day care centre in the town, noting that one carer would not be enough to cater for the estimated number of children who would need care (38). 

 

Local parents recently put forward a funding submission to West Wimmera Shire, the ABC said, to allocate $50,000 in its 2021–22 budget to a feasibility study for a long day care centre.

 

“There are so many young families now and we are all in the same position — the town is going to die if we have to move,” Mrs Stringer said. Four new babies have been born in Naracoorte and Hamilton hospitals in the past three weeks, while four teachers at Edenhope College have had children in the past six months, meaning demand for care will only continue to grow. 

 

To access the ABC coverage of this story, please see here

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