Mt Lawley: Meela Child Care Centre faces uncertain future

Uncertain future: Meela Childcare director Rene Locker, Mt Lawley candidate Simon Millman and Opposition spokeswoman for Community Services Simone McGurk. Picture: Giovanni Torre
Uncertain future: Meela Childcare director Rene Locker, Mt Lawley candidate Simon Millman and Opposition spokeswoman for Community Services Simone McGurk. Picture: Giovanni Torre

MEELA Child Care Centre in Mt Lawley continues to face an uncertain future, with funding cuts set to come into effect in 2018.

The centre are tenants of a property owned by the Public Transport Authority (PTA) and at present their rent is covered by the State Government, but this support will end in two years.

Centre director Rene Locker said the organisation has been “kept in the dark”.

“We don’t know what is going to happen. It all comes down to whether the PTA will charge us rent,” he said.

The State Government has said it is looking for $30 million in savings from the PTA, casting doubt on whether the body will waive rent for any tenant on PTA-owned property.

“We are at capacity, we have 55 kids every day and we have a wait list,” Ms Locker said.

“We had a meeting with the Department, but we are yet to meet with the PTA. We are in the process of organising that meeting.”

Ms Locker said the group had not made a decision on whether fees will be increased because of the funding cuts.

“We don’t know if will be able to afford the rent. If we can’t, we will have to close down,” she said.

Liberal Member for Mt Lawley Michael Sutherland said he had offered to meet with the Meela committee “some weeks ago” but they declined.

“I am disappointed their committee did not meet with me to discuss any concerns they may have regarding the transition before approaching the press,” he said.

“I am still prepared to meet with the committee at any time to discuss their concerns and to try to assist with a smooth transition to the new arrangements.

“Discussions between Meela Childcare Centre, the Department of Community Services and the PTA are ongoing. There will be a two-year transitional period before the new arrangements come into effect, providing adequate time to prepare for any adjustment to the Centre’s way of operating.

“It is not anticipated that any centre affected by the changes will close,” Mr Sutherland said.

Labor candidate for Mt Lawley Simon Millman has collected more than 300 signatures for his petition calling on the Government to reverse the cuts.

“Community-based early childhood centres are an asset to our community, yet the government is undermining that service and creating uncertainty,” he said.

“Meela Child Care Centre will receive more than $90,000 in support over the next two years to help with maintenance, but after that they will be on their own.

“If the Government abolishes the assistance provided to centres like Meela, they will have to either pass on significant costs to parents, or close down.”

Mr Millman said WA’s childcare shortage and long wait lists would get much worse if the funding cuts go ahead.