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The opening of a new daycare facility in Naracoorte has hit a speed bump.

There are no qualified staff to man the facility ready to open at the old TAFE site in the township.

The new daycare centre, with a capacity to accommodate up to 80 children, has been developed by Tony Dawson of Robe.

The development has received the green light from the Naracoorte-Lucindale Council after going through the public consultation process.

Talking about the development, mayor Patrick Ross said the development was great news for the district, however, staffing was a “big problem”.

“I think one of the major hurdles here is staff. Staffing the new facility is the problem,” he said.

“If the facility were to open tomorrow and there were 60 places filled, the staff would not be available to look after the children,” Mr Ross said.

He said the public consultation on the new development was done three months ago, and “there was absolutely no issue from the public’s point of view”.

“I would like to hope that the development at the old TAFE site will benefit up to 80 children, including early childhood care. I would like to imagine that we can actually begin that project as soon as practicable, and that is up to the developer.”

With staffing being critical, the mayor encouraged women from Naracoorte’s migrant community to see the opening as an opportunity to gain employment.

“I do understand that there are many women in our community who wish to do some work while their children are in daycare.

“I also understand that there are many women within our migrant community who would be keen to be part of the daycare centre as employees.

“For all that to come together, I imagine even if we have a start date on the childcare centre, that may allow women in our community to get whatever certificate is needed to work within the daycare centre in various capacities.”

While there is no timeframe for the opening, this was just some of the greatest news the district could possibly have had.

“The development, and of course, there is no issue with the planning, no issue with the entry and exit of the various streets that adjoin the traffic.

“The traffic flows were all very good. So, it’s really a matter of getting it rolling.”

Meanwhile, in 2019, the developer, Mr Dawson, and his company were embroiled in a controversial plan to turn the former TAFE site into a workers’ accommodation.

“It’s the same owner that was looking to put the development previously, which was worker accommodation, and there was quite a lot of community angst around,” Mr Ross said.

Minister for Education, Training, and Skills, Blair Boyer, had told this newspaper that the department was prioritising creating a pipeline of skilled workers to address the acute worker shortage in childcare.

“We are also prioritising creating a pipeline of skilled workers, particularly during a national skills crisis, with early childhood education being one of the key sectors we are investing in,” Mr Boyer said.

“This has been done by including it on the fee-free TAFE list to help break down barriers for those looking to enter the sector, as well as having it as a dedicated stream at Findon Technical College to encourage young people to work in the field.”

Mr Boyer said the final report of the Royal Commission highlighted the need to consider new ways of addressing undersupply in regional and rural communities, and this is something that the new Office for Early Childhood Development will be looking at in depth.

Shadow Minister for Education John Gardner said the government should create opportunities for workers, like young South Australians who would like to work with children.

“In relation to the training of new staff, the government should be working with schools all around South Australia and training providers, including TAFE, as well as non-government training providers, to ensure that there are opportunities for young South Australians in the region who would want to work with children to be able to be given easy pathways into this rewarding career.

“I am certain that there are opportunities in the years ahead to improve these services, so long as the government’s response to the Gillard Royal Commission doesn’t distract them from meeting these important and urgent needs felt in regional South Australia.”

Naracoorte Community News 6 December 2023

This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.

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