Remote town of Vic welcomes double capacity to ECEC service, enabling return to work

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Parents in the remote Victorian town of Edenhope, home to almost 1,000 people, have welcomed a two-year pilot plan to West Wimmera County Council which will double the number of places available for early childhood education and care (EAJE).

The center was previously limited to just four children, with a single educator. Pilot scheme will see eight children educated and cared for with Commonwealth financial support Child Care Subsidy Program.

A $50,000 feasibility study has been carried out to explore the option of a council-funded childcare service rather than a private one, with West Wimmera Shire Council director James Bentley saying the Recruitment of adequate staff will be the main obstacle to the growth of the service.

“We can’t bewitch them out of thin air, so we’re very conscious that we don’t make promises we can’t keep,” he said. Told the ABC.

The change is the result of a “decades-long campaign” to improve access to ECEC. A survey of teachers, business owners and doctors in the city last year found that 38 families currently needed or would soon need child care in the Edenhope, Apsley and Goroke areas .

Victoria University Academic Dr Peter Hurley said the economics of operating ECEC services in small regional towns often makes investment unattractive for councils and private providers.

“That means you get places where there’s a greater concentration of childcare available, often in inner suburbs where they may charge higher fees,” he explained.

Until systemic change is implemented in the sector, he continued, things are unlikely to improve for rural and regional families.

“We will not be able to solve this problem by continuing with the same structure that we have now,” added Dr Hurley.

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