CONCERNED parents with children attending rural childcares earmarked for closure in the lead-up to Christmas have been given a glimmer of hope the service can be saved.
Federal education minister Dan Tehan said in parliament on Monday he would investigate some “interim arrangements” to ensure parents in small towns on both sides of the border had childcare available next year.
Mr Tehan revealed he had spoken with AWCC chief executive Rod Wangman about the situation.
“The suggestion of making sure we have a roundtable (discussion) is a very good one,” Mr Tehan said.
“It might be worth us doing one on the Victorian side and then one on the NSW side so we can get all the relevant groups together.
“What we’ve got to make sure is the record investment of $8.3 billion enables us to provide services that are not only required in urban settings, but also smaller rural communities.”
The AWCC has been contacted about whether it will back-flip on its decision to exit from rural childcare if interim arrangements can be put in place by the government.
No date has been set for the roundtable talks.
A meeting will be held at the Henty Community Club at 6pm on Thursday.
Parent Rachael Terlich said demand for the service was evident with close to 40 enrolments for next year and the service being extended from three to five days this year.
“In Henty there is nothing else for children under three,” she said.
“It is a significant body of people and the issue is we are all dual working parents.
“A lot of us like myself are from farming families so my family relies on my income as well to help support the family.
“We’re in drought at the moment and we want to work to get a solution.”
Bellbridge parent Kimberly Mudra feared the knock-on effect to small schools in the Upper Murray if the childcare centres closed.
“The demand is there, but this situation is going to really hurt our community because there are also some families who will need to pull their children out of Bethanga and Talgarno schools, which already have small numbers,” she said.
“Personally I use the before and after school care three times a week as they go to Bethanga.
“I might be forced to take them into town (Wodonga).
“It’s becoming a domino effect really.”
The government is working with other providers in the border area to determine if they can take up the services.
AWCC has received more than $1.3 million in federal funding in each of the past six years.
Private operators moving into some areas and a reduction in children attending some services have prompted the closures.
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