Parents push for more childcare

PLAN: With support of the Beachport Primary School’s (BPS) governing council, and parent committee, the sub-committee has created a three tier action plan.

Caroline Hammat

A new working group is gathering momentum in Beachport to find a solution for the lack of childcare services in the town with an ambitious plan for a new school as their final goal.

Currently the only childcare service available in Beachport is the once weekly Childcare on Wheels (COWS) provided by the neighbouring Robe District Council.

Beachport resident Chelsea Betheras is part of the new sub-committee asking the community to share their stories and difficulties caused by the lack of childcare.

“We need to know how this is affecting our local community,” she said.

“We know Beachport is a tourism town and we know local businesses are struggling for staff.

“People can’t work.

“Even for myself when moving to this area we hadn’t bought a house, and I needed to earn an income to get a bank loan to buy a house, and there are no rentals.

“It’s stunting the development of Beachport in a lot of ways.

“The town can’t move on if we don’t have the facilities to keep it moving.

“We can’t seem to attract doctors here because where are they going to put their children if they’ve got young families.”

Ms Betheras is part of a small sub-committee collecting information to present to Wattle Range Council (WRC) and government organisations with the aim of increasing hours and days for Beachport childcare services.

With support of the Beachport Primary School’s (BPS) governing council, and parent committee, the sub-committee has created a three tier action plan.

The first strategy is inviting WRC to have a representative join the working committee or supply resources to help the small group work toward their goal.

Second, the sub-committee would like to see a COWS type setup in collaboration with the WRC and, possibly, the Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre (GSELC).

Their goal is to have childcare in the town on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday each week using the preschool room at the primary school which is currently used by COWS.

The third tier is a major undertaking to build new facilities which would ideally include a primary school, childcare, preschool and after hours care.

“The primary school here is quite rundown, quite small and the office buildings are outdated,” Ms Betheras said.

“It was only a temporary measure in the ‘70s and it’s just stayed like that.

“If we get a new learning hub, we can go from zero to Grade Six in the one area.

“There’s currently no after school care, which means parents are really restricted to where they can work and the hours they can work.

“So a lot of the people here just aren’t working or having to really sacrifice what they’re doing to have their kids in school.”

“I think by 2026, we’ve got to have three-year-old kinder as well.

“That’s another group of kids that need to go through the education system that we don’t have the room or facilities for at the moment.

“They’re bringing in all these wonderful incentives, saying how important it is for children’s development from nought to five, but they’re not providing us with the funding or the services to facilitate these things they want to happen.”

Ms Betheras has one of her three children, Will, currently in childcare at the GSELC after being on the waitlist for almost 12 months.

Fortunately her workplace allowed her to bring Will to work when her job moved from working at home to a small office environment.

But as he got older the ability to take him to work became far less practical.

“He used to come in to work with me two days a week and my auntie, who lives in Beachport, would look after him one day a week,” she said.

“If I worked in a supermarket, hospital, retail or hospitality there’s no way you can bring your baby to work.

“So we were very lucky.

“My husband works in Mount Gambier so he now drops him off at childcare on the way through.

“After school I pick up my other two boys and then drive into Millicent and pick up Will.

“It’s that extra cost financially as well as having to travel to do this day care.”

Members of the sub-committee met with WRC representatives on Thursday to discuss childcare options and will make a formal presentation to council in the near future.

The group have also met with Kirsty Starling who played a role in helping to secure $5.3 million in state and federal funding for a new childcare facility in Kingston.

Ms Starling has shared strategies, ideas and contacts with the sub-committee to further help their goal of expanded childcare options.