• Loddon Herald

Care 'ask' by Christmas

PROPOSED solutions to the Loddon’s childcare crisis could be developed by Christmas, according to Ripon MP Louise Staley.

Ms Staley, who has presented in State Parliament a petition signed by more than 700 people, said the local “ask” for action would be given to the Government.

The petition was launched following meetings of parents unable to access childcare in local communities.

The meetings and reports in the Loddon Herald have highlighted the impact on the careers of young mothers and businesses in the region.

Ms Staley said: “Now that the Government is aware of the need for childcare in Loddon, the next step is to work with the communities and council to prepare an ‘ask’ to government.”

“This may not be the same for every town but by Christmas I would expect to have a proposed solution to the problem presented to the government,” she said.

“As I said at the Wedderburn meeting, all this takes time and it will seem like nothing is happening. But please stay the course, I am confident that if we keep pushing we will get a workable solution.

“I am absolutely committed to it!

Ms Staley said the need for sustainable childcare in the Loddon Shire was overwhelming.

“Reading through impact statements given by parents, grandparents, carers, and teachers,” she said.

“it is clear what expanded childcare in Loddon would mean for families. Young families in the Loddon Shire face impossible choices – either stay home and lose a valued wage earner in the home or lean heavily on friends and family to make up for childcare while they work. Access to childcare is the answer.

“To everyone who signed the petition, collected signatures or shared their story about childcare in Loddon, you have started something significant for families in the region.

“You have told the Victorian Government that they must support rural families and help, in particular, young women get back into the workforce with access to childcare.”

Ms Staley told Parliament: “The issue of the lack of child care, both for small children and for before- and after-school care, is endemic and at crisis levels across the Loddon shire.

“We have many, many examples. For example, there are two teachers at Wedderburn secondary college who cannot teach at the moment because they cannot get child care for their children.

“This is an issue of access. It is not an issue of the subsidies that the federal government provides; this is about facilities and access.

“It is absolutely a State Government responsibility. As we have seen in other parts of my electorate where we have had some success, rural communities have changed, and they need child care and they need childminding services.

“As a result, we are going to have a lot more of these petitioners coming to the government and demanding action so they have equitable access.”

A community working group in Wedderburn is proposing an early years centre as the only realistic inclusive option to end the region’s child care crisis,

Wedderburn College Danny Forrest has said the Loddon campaign wanted to achieve an inclusive solution.

“We want to be inclusive. Anything other than an early years’ centre is only a Band-Aid, a short-term fix and then only for a few,” he said. “We need long-term strategic thinking and the investments in assets for the future of local communities.”

The Loddon’s childcare crisis has also had communities in Boort, Inglewood and Bridgewater discussing their needs.

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