Parents in ‘ugly’ clash with Perth childcare operators

Back: L-R: Chloe Hampton, Nancy Cortez, Danielle Linthorne and Stacey Tester.  Front: Claire Hurst. Pic: David Baylis.
Back: L-R: Chloe Hampton, Nancy Cortez, Danielle Linthorne and Stacey Tester. Front: Claire Hurst. Pic: David Baylis.

POLICE were called to a tense standoff between parents and the operators of a community childcare centre in Perth’s east today.

The Hills Gazette understands children were locked inside the Little Possums daycare centre while parents barred ‘unauthorised’ staff from accessing the Mundaring site.

The site is currently leased to not-for-profit group Mundaring Sharing which provides an adult learning service and the Little Possums Sharing Centre childcare service.

On Wednesday all staff at Little Possums gave Mundaring Sharing four weeks’ notice of their intention to leave due to the instability created by the group which announced last year it would close the centre.

At the time Mundaring Sharing blamed it on increasing regulatory and legal requirements for approved providers of childcare, and so it could expand its adult learning centre.

Parents said they were disgusted Mundaring Sharing had sent random recruitment staff to replace staff without warning.

Claire Hurst, whose three-year-old attends the daycare and kindy, said the situation got ugly.

“Staff at Little Possums resigned a few days ago, giving four weeks’ notice, and then out of the blue recruitment staff turned up and the Mundaring Sharing committee wanted the staff to do a handover straight away,” she said.

“Mundaring Sharing hasn’t even acknowledged the staff’s resignation.

“The committee members physically tried to get into the building to speak to the director of Little Possums.

“Parents who had gathered there didn’t allow them in and were sworn at and told if they weren’t picking up their children they were trespassing.

“It was really ugly and as parents we don’t want our children exposed to that.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see the lovely staff so stressed with what’s been going on for months.

“All we want to do is to continue a daycare that works really well.”

A Shire of Mundaring council meeting on Tuesday will decide the fate of the popular centre.

The Shire will consider business cases from Mundaring Sharing and Little Possums who both want to operate the service at the Craigie Place property which is leased through the Shire.

This childcare service was originally established by Mundaring Sharing in 1978 as a creche for parents to attend the adult learning programs.

Over time it grew to become an accredited childcare service providing long day care options to the wider community.

The service was due to close at the end of term 1, 2019.

In March Mundaring Sharing revised their position and said they wanted to continue operating the Little Possums Sharing Centre.

In its report, council staff said both organisations have demonstrated that they have the capacity to manage the leased facility.

“However, in light of the advice that Mundaring Sharing now has decided to retain the childcare service and will not transfer this to another entity, and in reviewing the perceived risks associated with service continuation, it is recommended that council resolves to award both leases on the site to Mundaring Sharing,” the report said.

“Little Possums Sharing Centre is the business of Mundaring Sharing and one which that organisation built.

“They have a proven track record of successfully managing this facility and have successfully applied for grants to develop this service and the facility.”

A WA Police spokesman said police attended after a phone call from a member of the public.

“Police arrived and saw a lawful protest taking place and left as (it was) not a police matter,” he said.

Little Possums and Mundaring Sharing have been contacted for comment.

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