Group fights shortage of child care

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Augusta entry statement
PIC : Derek Pool
Camera Iconrawedpics\bdt\pnews\Augusta1 Augusta entry statement PIC : Derek Pool

An increasing shortage of childcare places has forced members of the Augusta community to take matters into their own hands.

A band of residents have formed a new committee for the future Augusta Community Childcare Centre and are waiting on confirmation of a successful seed-funding grant from the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.

Volunteer co-ordinator Jasmine Meagher, a former tourism executive, said the centre would operate as a not-for-profit organisation similar to the community childcare centre in Margaret River.

But the committee has ambitious plans for the proposed new centre, not only seeking to accommodate about 24 children a day, but to explore greater community networks and include Augusta’s ageing population in the locally run effort.

“Child care is an issue across the whole shire,” Ms Meagher said.

Augusta Chamber of Commerce president Andrea Lindsay said the childcare shortage came on the heels of the housing crisis biting across the region. The lack of housing was particularly bad for Augusta, with the Times reporting last month some long-term residents in part-time jobs were being forced out of the seaside township because they had nowhere to live.

Ms Lindsay told the Times Augusta was now short about 50 places for child care. “It means parents have had to drive to Margaret River to drop kids off and then come back to work,” she said.

The loss of a popular local family daycare operation had highlighted the pressure on childcare availability as Augusta saw a big influx of new homeowners and people taking COVID-19 as an excuse for a sea change, Ms Lindsay said.

Ms Meagher said it was ironic to face a childcare shortage after years of trying to lure young families to Augusta.

“The big gap here is rental affordability,” she said.

The childcare centre group incorporate early last month and planning was underway to develop a site and get the centre up and running.

“The biggest issue for us is going to be staffing,” Ms Meagher said.

The centre would offer a lot of opportunities for residents wanting to get involved in a true community undertaking, she said.

The committee was taking its cues from the documentary The Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds which focused on inter-generational connection to the benefits of youngsters and elderly alike.

At the time of going to press, the Shire grant application had not yet been resolved. Shire corporate and community services director James Shepherd said the logistics of how best to serve Augusta were the focus of talks.

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