The Kingston South East community, 300 kilometres south-east of Adelaide, has renewed a push to resolve a shortage of childcare in the coastal town it has endured for more than 30 years.
- Kingston South East has seen a shortage of childcare for decades
- An independent working group says the issue is restricting the area’s growth
- Efforts are now turning to building a new childcare facility
Kingston Childcare Working Group spokesperson Kirsty Starling said 46 children were currently on the waitlist for early learning and childcare places.
“There might only be somewhere between 10 and 15 places that actually become available [each year],” she said.
According to a survey conducted by the independent group last year, 62 per cent of businesses said employees have had to resign or reduce their hours because of limited or no access to childcare.
Ms Starling said the issue was preventing young families from moving to the region and was restricting the growth of the town.
Ms Starling said she had to take steps to keep her own job as a nurse at the local hospital.
“I don’t think any of my friends living in Adelaide could say that they’ve had parents drive three hours to come and care for their child for a day so you could keep your position at work — which is what my mum used to do for me on a Friday,” she said.
Local state Member for MacKillop Nick McBride said the need for childcare was “quite immense” and the issue was “coming to a crunch”.
He said improving access to childcare would help more than parents wanting to work.
“There’s also another cohort of children that are perhaps on the slightly disadvantaged side that would be benefited by an early learning centre there to get them ready for school,” Mr McBride said.
Long-term solution needed
The Working Group has decided the only way to expand the town’s childcare service is to build a new facility.
“So we probably need a new build, we need some kind of commitment there, financially, from all levels of government, or in-kind work from the community, so we can move forward.”
Ms Starling said the progress toward a new facility had been “extremely slow and frustrating”.
“We want some support in [order] for us to develop plans, a business plan, and then we can maybe attract some funding,” she said.
South Australian Education Minister John Gardner said he is aware of the current waiting list for childcare and the community’s interest in building a childcare centre.
“The State Government is continuing their commitment to provide childcare at the Kingston Early Learning Centre based on its rural care model while the community explores options that meet their longer-term childcare demands,” Mr Gardner said.
The Federal Member for Barker, Tony Pasin, said the State Government is responsible for infrastructure that supports childcare facilities.
But he said once a shovel-ready proposal was ready, it was the kind of project targeted by the Building Better Regions Fund.
“But it really needs to be, as everyone has been saying, in partnership with the State Government and local community.”