Remote Vic town welcomes double capacity at ECEC service, allowing return to work
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Remote Vic town welcomes double capacity at ECEC service, allowing return to work

by Freya Lucas

June 27, 2022

Parents in the remote Victorian town of Edenhope, which has a population of nearly 1,000 people, have welcomed a two-year pilot plan from West Wimmera Shire Council which will double the number of early childhood education and care (ECEC) spaces available. 

 

The centre was previously limited to only four children, with one educator. The pilot program will allow eight children to be educated and cared for thanks to  funding support from the Commonwealth Child Care Subsidy Program

 

A $50,000 feasibility study was conducted to explore the option of a council-funded childcare service rather than a privately-operated one, with West Wimmera Shire Council executive James Bentley saying that moving forward recruiting adequate staff will be the main obstacle to growing the service.

 

“We can’t magic them out of thin air, so that’s why we are very mindful of the fact that we don’t make promises we can’t keep,” he told the ABC

 

The change comes as a result of “a decades long campaign” to improve access to ECEC. A survey of the town’s teachers, business owners and doctors last year found there were 38 families that currently or would soon need childcare in the Edenhope, Apsley and Goroke areas.

 

Victoria University academic Dr Peter Hurley said that the economics of operating ECEC service in small regional towns often make investment in them unappealing to councils and private providers. 

 

“What that means is you get places where there is a greater concentration of childcare available, often that is in inner suburban areas where they can charge higher fees,” he explained.

 

Until systemic change to the sector is implemented, he continued, things for rural and regional families were unlikely to improve. 

 

“We are not going to be able to solve this problem by continuing with the same structure that we have at the moment,” Dr Hurley added.

 

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

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