Three new remote-community child care centres, built at a cost in excess of $4 million will close due to a lack of funding, leaving little kids out in the cold.
The new centres located in Atitjere (Harts Range), Yuelamu (Mt Allen) and Nyirripi were built by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and have only been operational for 6 months.
The Central Desert Regional Council sought an additional $55,000 per centre so that they could employ Coordinators to support local Indigenous staff in each service. Instead, the Department of Social Services decreased their funding by almost $100,000.
Central Desert Regional Council CEO Cathryn Hutton said she was stunned by the offer. "We have the evidence that employing coordinators in the centres not only improves their usage, but they also protect the taxpayers' asset. Everyone wins. We've provided the evidence to the Government and their response was to reduce funding. They don't seem to be interested in evidence based practice".
Ms Hutton says she's exasperated at the intransigence of the Commonwealth Government. "We are being offered $128,000 per annum to run each centre. They want the centres full, they want children to be safe. It is not enough money to run the centres, employ local staff and also employ a coordinator to help train, supervise and support the local staff." Ms Hutton said.
Central Desert Regional Council President Adrian Dixon is furious with the lack of vision shown by the Commonwealth Government. "This is an attack on children, this is an attack on families, and this is an attack on Aboriginal people living in remote Communities. This is treating us like we're second class citizens." Mr Dixon said.
President Dixon says he doesn't understand the Commonwealth's stubbornness. "I've written to the Prime Minister, I've written to Minister Morrison, I've written to and met with Minister Scullion. This Government talks about protecting children, giving them the best start in life, improving school attendance and helping adults find and keep jobs. Child care centres do all these things. But the Government is not listening, it's too busy talking at us." Mr Dixon said.
The Council will close the centres immediately, leading to a loss of 15 full-time and part-time jobs for Aboriginal people and the termination of a critical service for kids and working parents in remote Central Australia.
For more details call Brad Bellette or Sonya Connellan (08) 8953 3250