New Kingston Childcare Centre funded

CHILDCARE ADVOCATE: Kirsty Starling with children Annie and Jack who inspired her to start advocating for additional childcare in the region. Picture: supplied.

Elsie Adamo

FIVE years of hard work advocating for a new childcare centre in Kingston has paid off for local nurse Kirsty Starling with both major political parties promising to fund construction if elected at the Federal election on May 21.

Kingston has been subject to a critical childcare shortage since 2017, with around 50 extra places needed to accommodate current demand.

To help combat the problem, the Kingston Early Learning & Childcare Services Working Group was established, chaired by Ms Starling and supported by Kingston District Council.

Last week, Federal Member for Barker and Liberal candidate Tony Pasin committed $1.8 million to a future centre if the Liberal government is returned on May 21.

The announcement was soon followed by Labor, which committed the same figure if it won Government.

Ms Starling said the team is excited progress has been made.

“In terms of the community, it is lifesaving,” Ms Starling said.

“For everyone to have equal access to a service everyone in urban areas do, the value of that is immeasurable.”

However, Ms Starling said “without a doubt” the commitment should have been made earlier.

“I have personally been working on it for over five years, but that is not to say others from the past had not already tried,” she said.

“It is extremely disappointing neither State or Federal Government, before last week, has recognised or been able to formulate a reasonable plan so we could solve this problem.

“It has definitely been a marathon.”

Ms Starling was prompted to start her campaign in 2017 with another local mum when she could not find childcare to enable her to return to nursing.

“My mum used to drive from Adelaide every Friday to look after my children,” Ms Starling said.

“I was a nurse and I wanted to return to work to keep my nursing registration.

“I placed importance on me continuing to work as a professional, and I was quite aware there was a lack of nurses.

“If I had not gone back to work some of the oldies in the community would have gone without service.”

Ms Starling said without any childcare spots in town, if her mother had not regularly made the 650km round journey she would not have been able to return to work.

“I did employ a private nanny at one point,” she said.

“My entire wage would go to paying them…I would have $40 leftover.”

Ms Starling said her predicament was similar to others in the community.

The Labor party said their new facility would be planned to cater for at least 60-70 places.

While it is a major win for the group, Ms Starling said there is a lot of hard work still ahead.

The working group will now start advocating for State Government to move the current kindergarten into the new centre.

Council chief executive Natalie Traeger said childcare in town had been a tough problem to tackle.

“When insufficient services exist, it is left to the individual to find their own solutions to try and address it,” Ms Traeger said.

“We do not and have never accepted that – it is a community problem, one we have been standing alongside for a few years now.

“We want to attract people to our community, but when you don’t have the social infrastructure to support them, it is very problematic.”

Ms Traeger said Mr Pasin had been an important voice for the project.

“Increasing the childcare offering in Kingston SE will give the opportunity to increase household incomes, easing cost of living pressures, and it will open the door for local businesses to a new pool of employees,” Mr Pasin said.

Similarly, Labor candidate for Barker Mark Braes said he hoped the centre would finally provide some relief for families in Kingston.

“Expanded childcare options mean more kids get access to early learning opportunities and more parents can make the most of work opportunities,” Mr Braes said.