My adjournment today is for the Minister for Early Childhood and Pre-Prep, and the action I seek is for Avenel to be included in the state government’s 50 new early learning centres commitment. Avenel has a catchment population of nearly 2000 people, and in recent years this has included many young families, with many more set to join the community in the coming year with the completion of a local housing development. But unfortunately, it is one of many towns across the Euroa electorate suffering from insufficient childcare facilities. With neighbouring towns like Nagambie also struggling with extreme waitlists, it is imperative Avenel has the facilities needed to provide child care locally to parents who need it.
Speaking with a local provider, I heard that an investment to expand the current kindergarten site would allow for existing staff to be utilised in both the kindergarten and the childcare facilities, with only a few extra educators required to provide the new service. Not having facilities will have a massive impact on the town’s future, with families choosing to relocate most of their lives to bigger centres like Shepparton. We have extreme cost-of-living pressures as well as a labour crisis, making more accessible child care critical to ensuring parents can work and alleviate financial burdens.
Just today Avenel mum Prue Hateley shared the impact the lack of local child care has had on her family and our community. Prue told me she was forced to give up her skilled aviation work of 12 years because she could no longer maintain the role with no access to local child care. Prue is part of the Avenel kindergarten parent advisory group, and her story is like that of so many other parents in Avenel. She said too many local families are driving their children to other towns for care, and in many cases have children in two different towns due to their ages. She said, ‘This is time, money and stress, with parents running a marathon before they can even start their working day, to do it all again in the evening.’
In our own family, my husband David has had to reduce his workdays as we are unable to get sufficient care for our daughter Quinn. Quinn is two years old and has spent most of her life on a waitlist for child care. Data from the Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy shows the stark geographical divides in access to child care, with regional Victorian families paying the ultimate price for a Melbourne-centric government. Child care is critical to women’s employment. This in turn drives economic growth, boosts financial security and improves social and health outcomes for women and families. We know the societal benefits from greater access to childcare education mean a lower risk of families struggling financially and even living in poverty, so I ask the minister to commit to a childcare centre in Avenel.