Theodore's unique approach to ECEC
The Sector > Provider > General News > Theodore’s volunteers are getting involved to support the community for life

Theodore’s volunteers are getting involved to support the community for life

by Freya Lucas

February 21, 2024

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) in the regional Queensland town of Theodore is unique in the way it connects to the community, with the locals pitching in to run the early childhood service in a volunteer capacity. 


Theodore is approximately 350 kilometers west of Bundaberg, between the Dawson River and Castle Creek, and for many generations those living in the town have worked with one another to create a unique care model to ensure that the youngest and oldest residents are cared for. 


Both the early childhood centre and the retirement home are run by a volunteer committee, with staff hired to manage day to day operations.


In 2024, the Theodore Early Childhood Association will celebrate its 20th year of operation. Association president Lauren McDonald spoke with the ABC, sharing the importance of the Association to the town. 


“Parents need to work,” she said. ”Sometimes they don’t have the option for a lot of care, so we’re fortunate to be able to offer that.”


Wendy Henning, Queensland president of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) said having access to ECEC is not only about supporting parents to work, but also about enhancing outcomes for children. 


“Having access to childcare allows those children the opportunity to socialise as they’re coming through their younger years,” she shared with the ABC. 


In Theodore the kindergarten runs Monday, Tuesday and alternate Wednesdays, educating and caring for 19 children. For the remainder of the week a long day care service operates on the site, with 20 children attending, and a waiting list for each day. 


To keep the service running the community conducts fund raising events, the proceeds of which are combined with government grants and parent fees. In a town of less than 500, keeping vital services running is not without its challenges. 


Both the ECEC setting and the retirement village have struggled with staffing over the years, and as people age, or have less time to volunteer, keeping committee running may prove problematic. 


Despite the challenges, Ms McDonald said there are “no plans to slow down” at the early childhood service, particularly with the introduction of Free Kindergarten in Queensland. 


To read the original coverage of this story please see here

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