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Labor matches childcare pledge

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Gabrielle Duykers, Naracoorte Community News

Kingston has successfully secured a new $1.8 million childcare facility, after the Federal Opposition agreed to match the recent election promise of its opposition.

As previously reported in The News, the Morrison government committed to providing Kingston with funding for a purpose-built facility if re-elected later this month.

Labor shadow minister for early childhood education and development, Amanda Rishworth, announced the bipartisan agreement during an interview with the ABC last week.

Kingston Early Learning Centre is the only childcare service available in the small coastal town, and currently has more than 50 children on its waitlist.

For the past five years, local council and the community have been actively working to address the childcare shortage through the Kingston SE Early Learning & Childcare Services Working Group (KELCS).

KELCS chair Kirsty Starling said the group was “ecstatic” to hear the Labor Party match the funding commitment for a childcare centre build. 

“We have been advocating for equal access to early learning for many years and to have a source of funding for a new build will be life-changing for our community,” Ms Starling said.

The announcement comes on the back of an Australian study by the Mitchell Institute released in April, which revealed more than 82 per cent of regional South Australians were living in areas considered “childcare deserts”, with Kingston named one of the worst cases in South Australia.

While kindergarten services are funded and overseen by the state government, there is no set organisation responsible for the provision of childcare even when the market fails.

Kingston District Council CEO Nat Traeger said this had been a major barrier to addressing the shortage.

“When insufficient services exist, it is left to the individual to find their own solutions to try and address it,” Ms Traeger said.

“We don’t and have never accepted that – it is a community problem, one we have been standing alongside for a few years now.

“We want to attract people to our community but when you don’t have the social infrastructure to support them it is very problematic.”

Earlier this year, the Federal Government rejected an application from council to develop a $1.6 million early learning and childcare facility in Kingston.

The bid was made through the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery program, an initiative Kingston was eligible for following the devastating 2019 Keilira bushfire.

Federal Member for Barker Tony Pasin subsequently lobbied Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who responded with the $1.8 million funding pledge last month.

Kingston District Council Mayor Kay Rasheed said the Labor commitment was great news for the community.

“We have been at the forefront of addressing this issue and are delighted that a huge step forward has been made — with the commitment of guaranteed funding by either party for a capital build,” Ms Rasheed said.

“We are grateful for the advocacy and support by Tony Pasin, which has been the catalyst for this bipartisan agreement being reached.”

Ms Rasheed said council was now turning its attention to lobbying the state government for a commitment to move the existing kindergarten to the incoming childcare facility, which is set to be located on the Kingston Community School grounds.

“This would provide a state-of-the-art integrated service and remove the double drop,” she said.

Naracoorte Community News 11 May 2022

This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News.

Related story: Childcare for coast

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