Page 2936 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 29 June 2011

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MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (10.33): Recently, I visited Rainbow Cottage childcare centre in Belconnen and met with the centre director, Debbie Brew, and her marvellous staff. Rainbow Cottage is a childcare centre with 63 places, catering for children from infancy to school age, and employs 13 staff. The centre has a very low staff turnover, with many staff having been at the centre for a number of years.

During the visit, Debbie and I, and our staff, discussed the national quality framework and talked about staff-to-child ratios. In the case of Rainbow Cottage, the nursery currently operates from birth to 18 months and has 10 babies. The new framework will require the nursery to run from birth to two years and will run with eight children. The toddler room, which currently runs from 18 months to three years for 11 children, will become two to three years with 10 children. That is a net loss of three places. While the staff-to-child ratios are supported, the centre physically cannot expand, so they will have to reduce the number of children in the place. This is a great shame.

Another childcare centre I had the pleasure of visiting was the Weston Creek children’s centre. I visited there on 12 June, along with the Hon Tony Abbott and his wife, Margie. The centre, which is a new centre, as a result of the fire in 2003, has been operating for 13 years. There are 100 children at the centre and it employs 36 staff. Emma Morton, the director, is very concerned about the impact of the government’s national quality framework, along with the federal government’s decision to freeze child indexation rebates and the general cost of living increases that put an enormous amount of pressure on working families and their ability to afford childcare.

Like Debbie, Emma feels that there is too much pressure on childcare workers, yet there are no rewards. Emma is in a constant state of juggling to keep the costs for families down and paying her staff above-award wages. Keeping staff motivated is a challenge she faces. Emma and Debbie are not isolated in their thoughts on these matters.

This week I had an opportunity to visit Totom House multicultural early childhood centre in Kaleen and was hosted by Robyn Bloomfield and her staff. Robyn has been the director of Totom House since June last year. The centre is a community-based not-for-profit centre that caters for children from infancy to school age; it employs 19 staff and it occupies a building owned by the government. The centre recently advertised to fill various roles and the response has been disappointing. The director, rightly, is concerned about the future and being able to fill vacant positions.

When we walked around the building, I was shocked at the quality of the building. The building has undergone various so-called renovations over the years. Quite frankly, the state of the building is a shambles. This government should be ashamed of the quality of the building where our children are being looked after. Robyn informed me that she had asked a number of times for assistance with some repairs. Some repairs had been done three times, and then they found that the problem was not in the ceiling but in the roof. There was leaking where there had been bodgie jobs. We

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