In Parliament

Adjournment - Port Phillip Childcare Centres



Thursday, 24 February 2022

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (17:13):

My Adjournment is directed to the Premier, and the action that I seek is for the Premier to personally intervene and provide financial government support which would stop the closure of three childcare centres before they are forced to close. Port Phillip Council has proposed to sell three childcare centres in its portfolio: Eildon Road Children’s Centre in St Kilda, Elwood Children’s Centre in Elwood and the Avenue Children’s Centre and Kindergarten in Balaclava.

As the Premier may be aware, Elwood Children’s Centre is in the Brighton electorate. For background, the Elwood centre, based at 46 Tennyson Street, is a community-run childcare centre and kindergarten that has operated since 1985. It offers 35 places per day. There are currently 16 full-time staff, 55 families and 65 children enrolled there.

All three centres proposed for closure are operated from aged council-owned buildings which require significant maintenance upgrades, so much so that Council cannot afford to fund the upgrades without State Government financial support.

When Council sought financial support from the Government last year the Department advised by email on 5 August 2021 that support would not be available to the centre as they did not meet certain grant requirements. Closure of the Elwood centre would have a significant impact on my community.

Let me tell the Premier why. Council has previously confirmed that there is already a shortfall of childcare places in Elwood in the southern end of the municipality, and further, under the proposal Council would vacate Elwood Children’s Centre in December 2023, Eildon Road would vacate in December this year and the North St Kilda site would be closed in December 2023.

The cumulative effect of the closures would be a net reduction of 160 places — 160 places! — in a part of the municipality where there is already a shortfall.

But the best way to describe how strongly the closure of the Elwood Children’s Centre would affect my community is to refer the Premier to the words of local Elwood mothers. As Bel said to me recently:

“Losing Elwood Children’s Centre would put families and single parents such as myself at risk. To be honest with you, James, I actually don’t know what I will do if ECC is forced to close.”

Or, as Pennie has said to me:

“Keeping the centre open is also not just about the kids. This is about women. Working Mum’s, Single Mum’s, Stay at home Mum’s, Mum’s looking to re-enter the workforce. We need to support women …”

Premier, Labor needs to stop neglecting my community. It is time for the Labor Government to step up and do the right thing.