Cannington’s Treasure Island fighting for future of childcare centres


Julie Callaghan (Manager Treasure Island community day care), Dolly Dhiman (educator) with Jessica Genetti (3) and Rosie Butler (2) and Camille Damer (Director Treasure Island community day care) with her son Max (2). Picture: Marie Nirme
Julie Callaghan (Manager Treasure Island community day care), Dolly Dhiman (educator) with Jessica Genetti (3) and Rosie Butler (2) and Camille Damer (Director Treasure Island community day care) with her son Max (2). Picture: Marie Nirme

IT WILL be business as usual for the youngsters at Cannington’s Treasure Island community childcare centre, but behind the scenes parents and educators are fighting for the centre’s – and others like it – future.

Since receiving word from the Department of Local Government and Communities that the State would incrementally withdraw from its role to provide property maintenance to community centres from June 2018, the Centre’s board has been looking for ways to reverse the decision, or minimise the impact on funding.

Fee increases are guaranteed across the board with centre closures a close second.

Centre manager Julie Callaghan and board director Camille Damer have launched an online petition to reach out to the 32 other centres set to be affected by the funding change.

Mrs Damer said the petition would establish power in numbers for parents at other centres and increase influence on the State Government.

“We need to talk to all the centres and get together, we need as many people going in the same direction together,” she said.

“Everyone needs to know about it, if we close, people in other centres will see the impact of other centres and increased demands…Once again the parents are wearing the cost of a government decision.”

Mrs Callaghan said the decision would affect every not-for-profit centre, with wide repercussions for families.

“There are 33 (centres), we’re all in the same boat and worst case scenario if this goes ahead 33 centres will close,” she said.

“These are community-based services, we have been here for 27 years and have over 150 families and children as well as staff that I need to think about too.”

Last week the centre received a 10-year assessment from the State Government, examining the annual cost of building maintenance.

“If the funding is pulled out and we need to pay a commercial lease, we don’t know how much that can cost… it can cost up to $80,000 a year,” Mrs Callaghan said.

“When you take on a commercial lease you have to take on the maintenance of the building and we have been given a 10 year assessment on what it’s going to cost… some years it’s $10,000 and other years it’s $75,000 a year in maintenance.”

Mrs Callaghan said the fees would have to increase to around $120 a day to accommodate the projected costs.

Mrs Damer said it was a blow for parents who needed two incomes to survive.

“I know a lot of people who can’t afford child care as it is, so this will not help the situation,” she said.

“It makes no sense, we all agree that both parents need to work that’s life so why are (the government) making it harder for them.”

Mrs Callaghan said the Government decision was shortsighted and did not take the needs of children into consideration.

“There’s never been a time before now that we know how important the foundation years are for children, there should be more money put in to make sure the fundamental years are recognised,” she said.

“Places like Finland and Sweden know and value 0-5, they are the most critical years, the world is becoming more aware how we impact those kids for the rest of their lives and that tide needs to turn in Australia.”

To sign the petition go to http://www.thepetitionsite.com/299/021/571/save-our-community-child-care-centres/

What Minister for Local Government and Communities Tony Simpson says

The State Government maintains its commitment to ensuring accessible and affordable childcare and will support the continued delivery of childcare services through these facilities.

We do not anticipate any education and care centres will close as a consequence of the State Government ceasing to directly own or lease the properties.

The Department of Local Government and Communities met with the Mundarda Community Childcare Centre on 24 August and City of Armadale on 8 September to identify, discuss and facilitate and effective solution that simplifies the property management for the centre, and provides long term certainty for the children, their families and the centre’s staff.

Options include vesting the property or providing a conditional freehold to the centre.

There are 1137 childcare providers in Western Australia, of these only 33 centres operate from State Government managed properties.

It is not appropriate for the State Government, as the child care regulator, to also own or lease property in which child care services are offered.