General News

16 May, 2024

Discussion held on how to boost childcare services

An online consultation session aimed at developing strategies to eventually build Gilgandra’s childcare services was held last Tuesday, May 7.

By Dallas Reeves

Discussion held on how to boost childcare services - feature photo

An online consultation session aimed at developing strategies to eventually build Gilgandra’s childcare services was held last Tuesday, May 7. Ross Beaton, the director at Insight Consulting Australia, facilitated the community on-line session titled Toward 5000: Childcare Strategy Presentation of Draft Findings. Attendees representing Gilgandra Shire Council, Gilgandra Public School, St Joseph’s School, Gilgandra Local Aboriginal Land Council, Barnardos and Projence attended.

Mr Beaton shared a presentation completed by Insight Consulting. In opening the meeting, he said Gilgandra Shire Council was “clever” in its strategy to complete the on-the-ground interviews that formed the basis of the research and findings. “They wanted to have those networks and that understanding of what’s needed in childcare in Gilgandra themselves,” Mr Beaton said. “I think council has done a great job with that.”

The research involved 12 interviews with 16 different people. A community survey was also conducted with 130 respondents, more than 64 per cent of those being parents and carers. Seventeen per cent of those surveyed were Aboriginal. By way of national data, any centre which has below one place for every three children aged zero to four is considered a “child care desert”. Gilgandra, with a ranking of 0.19 spots per child (almost one in five) aged zero to four, is considered a desert.

Interestingly, the Dubbo local government area ranking was 0.16 spots per child. The NSW average is 0.37. Within Gilgandra, two-thirds of parents and caregivers have had to wait more than nine months to place a child in child-care. The needs in Gilgandra are additional hours in long day care, preschool and family day care with a need for out of school hours care, particularly after 3pm. Three-quarters of people surveyed said they would want to an additional nine hours or more work or study if more childcare was available.

One-third of people said they would do an additional 17 hours or more of work or study. “That data confirms there is a shortage in the area,” Mr Beaton said. With the findings presented, actions were considered. Randall Medd from Projence posed the question of what case studies are available for Gilgandra to model any actions from. Gina Johnson from Barnardos told the meeting that at-risk children in Gilgandra need to be considered in any long-term planning as “at the moment there is nothing”.

Council will consult with local schools to see if any schools could be used for after-school care. Neil Alchin, council’s director of growth And liveability, addressed this issue during the meeting. Schools are open to the idea and would welcome further discussions. However, any venue utilised must meet certain criteria. Finding providers and staff to improve childcare services is an on-going issue.

Mr Beaton said it is hoped moving forward is that it will a “community response” with some actions from council rather than being completely Gilgandra Shire Council-driven. Childcare facilities available in Gilgandra itself are Gilgandra Preschool and Aussie Kindies Early Learning Centre and a handful of family day care providers/services.

Across the wider region, Tooraweenah Preschool, Gulargambone Preschool, Bogan Bush Mobile that visits Collie around once a fortnight and the Warrumbungle shire’s Connect Five Children’s Services that also visits Tooraweenah intermittently. From here, Insight Consulting will provide a report and draft strategy to council. If council consider and adopt a draft strategy at its May meeting, the document could become public soon.


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