Nationals Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland was in Avenel this week alongside Shadow Treasurer Brad Rowswell, discussing the need for more accessible childcare in the region.
The Shadow Treasurer was part of Ms Cleeland’s regional budget tour, with the pair stopping at several sites across the Euroa electorate to discuss the pressing needs for regional Victoria ahead of next month’s State Budget.
Access to childcare continues to be a priority for Ms Cleeland, who said too many young families are competing for limited spaces across several towns in the electorate.
“There are huge shortages in Avenel, Nagambie and Seymour. While Seymour is receiving a new childcare centre, these issues won’t be resolved overnight,” Ms Cleeland said.
“Our major towns aren’t inaccessible backwaters but they are placed at a disadvantage when childcare is so rare.”
Shadow Treasurer Brad Rowswell said that regional projects would benefit heavily from further investment, yet overspending by the Labor Government in Melbourne was preventing this.
“The money spent by the Government each day on interest alone could make a huge difference for so many regional communities,” Mr Rowswell said.
“Each day the Government is paying $10 million in interest on the state’s debt when this money could transform regional projects.
“This is preventing projects across regional communities, ones that could resolve issues such inaccessible childcare, from getting the support and funding they need.”
Ms Cleeland said that families were the ones suffering from this issue, with the lack of childcare options preventing parents from getting back to work and reducing the pressure felt by the cost-of-living crisis.
“We have extreme cost of living pressures, as well as a labour crisis – more accessible childcare is important to ensure parents can return to work and alleviate these issues,” Ms Cleeland said.
“I’ve spoken to so many parents who are wanting to get back into the workforce but can’t because they are unable to get their kids into childcare.
“This is a real handbrake for us and places a hurdle in front of young people who want to raise their family in the country.
“We’ve got incredible local childcare providers but in some places there’s up to six kids competing for each place. It’s simply not sustainable.”
With significant overlap between different levels of government in the preschool sector Ms Cleeland said reform is necessary to simplify the industry.
“Childcare and kinder regulations are incredibly complex. For a regional centre there are licencing, management and land arrangements that often involve all three levels of government,” Ms Cleeland sad.
“In metro areas childcare centres are usually separated from kindergartens whereas this isn’t the case in regional areas.
“An extra kinder place can mean losing a childcare place and with pressure on both waitlists in places like Avenel it’s just not sustainable for the community with kids and families continually missing out.
“The status quo is not working. I’ve experienced this firsthand and we need to have a serious conversation on reform and simplification to make this process work for our local economy and most importantly our families.
“I’m determined to work with our communities and families to improves local access to childcare.”