20 February 2024

774 daycare places in Goulburn pipeline but finding staff still far from child's play

| John Thistleton
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house with development proposal notice on fence

This Deccan Street property is among several to be redeveloped for childcare in Goulburn, should the proponents find staff to run them. Photo: John Thistleton.

More than 770 new childcare places are in the planning pipeline in Goulburn.

In new suburbs, and at Bradfordville, West Goulburn, Eastgrove and central Goulburn, they are a solution for the city’s big jobs bottleneck caused by parents unable to re-enter the workforce.

A 95-place childcare centre at Quiberon Way received planning approval in 2020, another was given the go-ahead for 104 places at Bonnerville Boulevard in 2021, and another was approved for 109 places in Record Street last year.

Under planning assessment are proposed new centres in Deccan Street (120 places); Queen Street (63); Dalley Street (115); Elizabeth Street (48); and Long Street (120).

Proponents of all these centres have invested huge sums of money in architectural drawings and traffic, acoustic and environmental reports. But new centres are not opening, and are unlikely to for some time because of a lack of qualified staff.

READ ALSO Childcare centre plan for 109 places raises staffing questions

Consequently, families are not settling in Goulburn, which promotes itself as having affordable housing, because they cannot find child care. The waiting lists at some centres are closed.

Goulburn TAFE College offers two qualification levels in early childhood studies: a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care and a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care.

The Certificate III courses are offered as a part-time evening class, a full-time course run three days a week and as a TVET course to support students complete their Certificate III TAFE NSW qualification while they finish their HSC.

So, how many students are enrolled in these courses?

“We are unable to supply you with the enrolment numbers,” said one of TAFE’s communications specialists.

TAFE sign

NSW TAFE has several options for people wanting to gain qualifications in child care, but won’t reveal how many students are taking up these courses in Goulburn. Photo: John Thistleton.

No explanation was given for the refusal.

Every week, Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman hears stories from parents unable to access places close to home. They include health workers, tradies and teachers.

“The NSW Labor Government just seems to not be interested in the issue at all, spruiking a commitment of building 100 new preschools this term – one-fifth of the 500 preschools the Coalition had earmarked,” she said.

”Labor won’t confirm a timeframe for their promise to deliver free pre-kindergarten for all NSW children.

“Worst of all, the Labor Government have short-changed the early childhood workforce with a mere $22 million package, which pales in comparison with the $282 million that was being rolled out by the Coalition to support early childhood teachers and educators.

“It is really concerning and I would like to see the Labor Government placing greater value on helping our community’s early educators.”

Chair of the Hume Conservatorium of Music board Ed Suttle said the lack of child care was keenly felt when, some time ago, his organisation was trying to recruit a chief executive officer.

One of the promising candidates did not end up in the position, but was so well credentialled she accepted a position on The Con’s board, saying she would be relocating to Goulburn in the next couple of months,” Mr Suttle said.

”But long waiting lists for child care left her no option but to relocate to the South Coast, where her extended family could help with childminding. It’s not an unusual story.”

READ ALSO Goulburn Airport owner wants to cash in properties and retire

Another mother of a 10-month-old child, who came to Goulburn with her husband and commutes one day a week to Canberra as a nurse, will likely lose her job because she cannot secure child care – a grim prospect for a couple paying off a mortgage.

“We live in Goulburn, but do not have any family around here. All our family are three hours away,” she said. “It makes it a bit harder; we don’t have that to fall back on.”

An acquaintance in a similar position inquiring into a private nanny was told she would not qualify for government subsidies. The nanny would cost $160 a day.

Through her mothers’ group she met another woman who had her child’s name on a childcare waiting list for four years.

She had also heard poor pay was a strong disincentive for people choosing child care as a career. “It’s just terrible money. Why would you do it?” she said.

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