Augusta families travelling more than 200km a day to access ECEC call for help
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Augusta families travelling more than 200km a day to access ECEC call for help

by Freya Lucas

July 28, 2022

Families in the small Western Australian town of Augusta are calling for support as some parents are forced to travel up to 200 kilometres a day to access early childhood education and care (ECEC). 

 

Parents who have been “fighting for years” to get a long day care service up and running are becoming weary, saying without help and support for the significant population growth in the region children would suffer. 

 

Amanda Davies, a population geography expert from the University of Western Australia, shared with The Age that Augusta has shown an “unbroken trend of growth over the past 20 years”, driven by the arrival of young couples and families to the area. 

 

“This established pattern suggests the need for significant support for families with young children and ensuring education is adequate for all ages.”

 

The 2021 census revealed there were 54 children aged from zero to four years of age in Augusta alone, up from 39 in 2016.

 

Jasmine Meagher is a parent of two young children in the area who was dismayed when a family day care (FDC) service in the town shut down three years ago, followed closely by the closure of another FDC service 20 minutes away, leaving parents scrambling. 

 

Concerned, Ms Meagher reached out to the Augusta-Margaret River Shire Council with her concerns that there would soon be no place for families to send young children within a 50-kilometre radius of town.

 

After forming a board of volunteers, the group worked with the council to develop plans to develop a space at the recreation centre in town, unused 90 per cent of the time, into a childcare facility.

 

Despite having a wait list of fifty children for the proposed service, and an extensive quoting process, the service is no closer to fruition, with the only progress being that that shire has since started work on a business case to better understand the need for current and future childcare services and the costs involved, and the state government has committed $10,000 towards the case.

 

After “three years of fighting” Ms Meagher said families are still being forced to travel long distances, or have one parent, typically the mother, miss out on work to care for the children. Businesses in the town are also struggling with a diminished workforce due to the challenges of finding care. 

 

Responding to Ms Meagher’s feedback a spokesperson for the West Australian Government said that provision of ECEC services in the regions was a challenge due to the difficulty of keeping small, sometimes isolated, community-based services viable.

 

“We recognise travelling long distances for childcare is not ideal, as it could discourage parents from entering or remaining in the workforce, at a time when workers are needed in a range of industries.”

 

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

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