A BACKBENCHER will stand in for federal Education Minister Dan Tehan at meetings tackling the crisis created by the closure of childcare centres across the Border.
The forums on Monday December 17 will address Albury-Wodonga Community College ending services at Mitta, Walwa, Kergunyah, Baranduda, Bellbridge, Henty and Walla later this month.
However, rural-based Mr Tehan will not be attending, with Sydney Liberal backbencher Craig Laundy to represent him at the Henty and Wodonga meetings at 11am and 2pm respectively.
Details of the events, to be attended by Border MPs Cathy McGowan and Sussan Ley, emerged as parents hit by the Bellbridge closure met on Thursday.
Federal and state government officials heard how mothers and fathers were struggling to respond to not having care for their children.
Meeting organiser Sharon Star, a mother of three from Granya, said 37 children were signed up at Bellbridge for next year.
“We don’t want to lose those enrolments, we want our families to feel secure in their children’s future education,” Ms Star said.
The meeting heard some parents had yet to be notified by the college of the closures and that employees who will lose their jobs had only been told on Wednesday.
Bethanga Primary School principal Rachel Saunders teared up as she said the fallout would be “substantial and devastating”.
She said her school of 31 students was facing the loss of five children which would spur a $30,000 funding cut.
College employee Anne Bowler attended the forum but stressed she was speaking in her capacity as chairwoman of the National Association of Mobile Services for Rural and Remote Families and Children.
She said the government’s childcare set-up was a “failure model” for rural areas because of “inadequate subsidies” which saw “favoured” private sector operators only interested in servicing major centres.
“We need legislation that covers rural and remote communities, that subsidises those communities,” Ms Bowler said.
“To this date no corporate service or private operator has come into a rural context because it’s not viable and not profitable.”
Towong Shire chief executive Juliana Phelps was pressed on whether the shire would provide interim help and she indicated it was unlikely.
The personal heartache of the cuts was outlined to the meeting by several mothers.
Tish Jasinowicz said that having daycare two days a week allowed her to operate a hair and beauty salon at Bethanga.
But now because of the college axing the service at Bellbridge she was telling clients she would be unavailable from December 21.
“It’s actually quite a nightmare,” Ms Jasinowicz said.
“I’ve rung six or seven different places in town (Albury-Wodonga) to get a place and everyone’s booked out.
“I may as well try and get welfare and stay at home and do nothing.”
Single Bethanga mum Rachel Hewitt, who has 18 month-old twins and a three and six year-old, said her plans to study printing and graphic design at TAFE next year were at risk.
“This is a huge thing for my family and I have four kids to come here next year and now they’ve got nowhere to go,” Ms Hewitt said.
Bellbridge childcare centre client Sinead Culling-Bradley queried where her fees had gone under the college’s administration.
“I don’t understand why there’s no profit when we’re paying $110 a day,” she said.
Meeting organiser Sharon Star and others noted that bureaucrats thinking youngsters from the Bethanga peninsula could swap to childcare centres in Albury-Wodonga failed to realise the impact of extra travel time and social dislocation.
Ms Star said as well as isolation those preschoolers who stayed at farms faced safety risks.
Former Wodonga primary school principal Kaye Blackburne said social capital would be eroded and criticised the late year timing of the college’s decision.
“It’s a horrible thing that’s happened,” she said.