Kinder priorities identified in plan
A report assessing infrastructure for early years services across Baw Baw Shire has identified an urgent need for new hubs in Drouin and Trafalgar.
The municipal early years infrastructure plan report presented to council recommended two early years hubs were a high priority for Drouin and Trafalgar in the next 12 months.
When council establishes new early childhood hubs, the report recommends council adopt the best practice model and develop facilities that include two 60 place rooms; two maternal child health rooms; a space for meetings and parent groups; and an ancillary space for waiting rooms, storage, toilets and baby change/feeding facilities.
The plan said kindergarten services were under increasing pressure across the shire. Figures this year showed there was demand for 239 of the 238 available places in Drouin; and, in Trafalgar there was demand for 57 of the 58 places.
“Kindergarten records and anecdotal; information suggests some families living in Trafalgar travel; to other towns such as Warragul and Yarragon.
The plan also identified future needs and emerging trends including the need for spaces that support visits from health services such as occupational therapists and speech therapists.
Future designs should include larger outdoor areas with more trees and play spaces; and, larger rooms and breakout areas for an increased variety or programs.
The plan included recommendations for early years infrastructure over the next 20 years.
In a report to council, officers said there had been unprecedented demand on early years services resulting in growth of programs such as family day care, maternal and child health and kindergartens.
“While some of these programs can be expanded with minimal infrastructure requirements (such as family day care), others require increased physical space to keep up with the growing demand.
“The MEYIP is intended to inform and support Council’s decision-making process regarding any future infrastructure investment in the early years.
Cr Darren Wallace said the report showed there were major issues to be addressed in Drouin and Trafalgar but there also were emerging issues in Longwarry for early learning places.
“We have to be mindful of early education and to tap into federal and state funding.
Cr Wallace said the report provided evidence of what early learning infrastructure is needed in the shire.
Cr Tricia Jones said for a long time there was no real need to build new kindergartens or early learning centres.
“But the rapid growth has changed all of that. For the past five years it has been a stressful exercise to keep up with and accommodate young children seeking kinder places.
“Local government is the closest level to the people and every opportunity has been undertaken to give them the opportunity to attend kindergarten at their preferred location.
“In a rate capped environment, it makes it very difficult to support all the facilities,” she said.
Cr Jessica O’Donnell said council knew the growth was occurring, so it was great to know council had a strategic approach.
Cr Keith Cook said the plan went to great lengths to identify needs for early learning.
Cr Joe Gauci said it was important to use the plan to advocate for funding. “As a council we can’t fund a new kindergarten every 18 months to two years.”