ECEC availability in Grey is the worst in the country, leaving parents scrambling for options

ECEC availability in Grey is the worst in the country, leaving parents scrambling for options

by Freya Lucas

May 11, 2022

Jessica Winen, a mother of two with one on the way, lives in Port Broughton, a small regional community on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, and drives 200 km to access early childhood education and care (ECEC). 

 

On the days when ECEC isn’t available, Ms Winen and her husband rely heavily on his mother to babysit, or on some occasions, work 10-12 hours in their butcher shop with a baby strapped to one of their chests. 

 

The Winens are one of several families who have levelled criticisim toward Barunga West Council saying not enough is being done to address the lack of availability. 

 

Port Broughton is part of South Australia’s Grey electorate, which covers 92.3 per cent of the state, an area larger than New South Wales. It includes the agricultural districts of the Eyre Peninsula and the fishing and port centre of Port Lincoln, the iron triangle cities of Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie, the Yorke Peninsula, and extends south to the edge of Gawler in northern Adelaide. Grey is the nation’s third largest electorate after Durack (WA) and Lingiari (NT).

 

A new study from the Mitchell Institute has found that access to ECEC in Grey is the worst in the country, and residents are demanding change. 

 

Council responds

 

Speaking with local publication Port Pirie Recorder in response to the complaints, Council’s CEO Maree Wauchope said efforts were being made to finalise a business case with Regional Development Australia that would hopefully bring an ECEC service to Port Broughton.

 

The business case outlines the cost to build a facility, and a governance structure which would support the service to run. 

 

“We’ve been looking at other facilities run by community groups, councils and the private sector,” she added. 

 

The Council has also drawn inspiration from nearby Yorke Peninsula Council, which secured a grant worth over $2 million for childcare.

 

Ms Wauchope took steps to assure the community that the Council is aware of the issues, and is working to find a feasible solution. A case for the ECEC service will be presented at the Council’s May meeting, however Ms Wauchope pointed out that the Council will need support from other levels of government as well as the community for any such service to go ahead. 

 

OSHC struggles in Port Lincoln

 

In Port Lincoln, another South Australian regional town in the Grey electorate, the only independent outside school hours care (OSHC) service is on the verge of closure after parents were told last November that the company’s lease would not be renewed. 

 

More than 100 families in the town are facing a situation where no OSHC care is available if a new location isn’t found by the end of the month. 

 

Liberal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey told the ABC he was working with councils and organisations to address the issues and grow the number of available services, including in Minlaton, Crystal Brook, Port Broughton, Cummins and Wilmington. 

 

“Being aware of these shortfalls in placements and the effect this has on families, I was thrilled to support the federal government announcement for specific funding for regional childcare in the recent 2022 federal budget.”

 

“This will provide $19.4m to fund up to 20 new services via the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) open competitive grant and is only open to communities from rural and regional areas.”

 

To read the Port Pirie Recorder coverage of this issue please see here. For the ABC coverage, see here

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