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23 June 2021
The entire June 23, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
BY DYLAN DE JONG
A municipal leader in Edenhope is concerned a council budget commitment to solve a desperate need for childcare options in the town will fall short.
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West Wimmera Shire Council last week allocated $20,000 in its budget for a case study into resolving the municipality’s lack of childcare.
Cr Trevor Domaschenz, who has been looking into Edenhope’s childcare situation for the past two years, is hopeful the commitment will be a positive step in solving the issue.
However, he said the council’s move was unlikely to cover what was needed to find long-term childcare options.
The council resolved to include childcare services provision in its council plan.
Cr Domaschenz said councillors also agreed to pause the sale of council-owned Edenhope Senior Citizens Club rooms, which could be a potential site for a childcare centre.
“The $20,000 might be enough for a study, but we will still need to get someone in to assess buildings, such as the club rooms, to understand what needs to be done to bring them up to compliance,” he said.
“That study alone, for an assessment of the buildings, could range between $12,000 and $14,000.”
The $20,000 commitment came after a group of Edenhope parents asked the council to provide $50,000 to investigate the issue as part of its 2021-22 budget.
The group was desperate to find childcare options after the one person who was working under Uniting Wimmera to provide family day care services to Edenhope announced her resignation earlier this month.
Cr Domaschenz said the lack of childcare options in the municipality was forcing parents out of the workforce and making it difficult for organisations to hire new staff.
“The service is absolutely essential to the future of our shire and it wasn’t until just recently when the push started after the resignation of the day carer,” he said.
“The hospital, the shire, the school and businesses in town cannot attract staff due to this issue.”
Cr Domaschenz said he was hopeful the council and other stakeholders could work to find an ‘emergency solution’ for childcare within the next few months.
Mother of two Shelley Hartle is among parents pushing for more childcare options.
Ms Hartle said family day care was only part of the solution for more sustainable childcare options in the town.
“So far, council’s response has been family day care is the solution, but all of our numbers and the research we’ve done suggest that it is only part of the solution,” she said.
“We need a centre service for long care, before and after school care and vacation care.”
Ms Hartle said the preference for centre-based care was based on a growing number of children who required the service.
“Studies show there were 31 children needing immediate care and by January 2022 that number jumps up to 49,” she said.
“The breadth of need from the families is also quite wide. An in-centre service can cover that better than family day care can on its own.”
Ms Hartle is on maternity leave from her role as Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital’s executive assistant and is due to return early next year.
She said it was crucial for her and other parents to find a solution so they could return to work.