Lyndarum: children’s centre
My matter for the adjournment tonight is for the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, and I am very pleased she is in the house to respond to my matter. The former Labor government invested greatly in the early childhood sector, including kindergartens, maternal and child health centres and early childhood intervention services. One of the most innovative approaches within this investment was the establishment of new children’s centres which brought together a range of different services for young families, including kindergarten programs, child care, maternal and child health services, early intervention and support services, supported playgroups, parent groups and family services. Last year Labor went to the election promising a further $20 million to continue to expand the network of children’s centres around Victoria.
I am concerned that not only was there nothing in the coalition’s election commitments around this issue but the coalition has allocated no specific funding for children’s centres in this year’s budget. In the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee budget estimates hearings Ms Lovell, the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, seemed to suggest that children’s centres could be funded from the $15 million children’s facilities capital program, an amount that is somehow meant to fund the expansion of kindergartens across Victoria to address the baby boom and also to prepare kinders for the expansion to 15 hours by 2013.
Many councils around Victoria that I have spoken to are seeking clarification about this issue, given that they had intended to build new children’s centres. I would welcome some clarification about whether that $15 million program will be available for new children’s centres.
In this instance I draw the minister’s attention to what this issue means for the City of Whittlesea, which represents one of Melbourne’s most rapidly growing communities. I am particularly concerned that the council’s proposal to build a new children’s centre as part of the Lyndarum community activity centre may now not be able to go ahead due to this lack of dedicated funding. I call on the minister to urgently commit funding to the proposed children’s centre at the Lyndarum community activity centre to ensure that families in Epping have the convenience of accessing children’s services in the one location in their local community.