World News Australia, SBS Radio, August 26, 2014
Childcare facilities in Australian workplaces, schools, sports clubs and other community buildings.
That’s one of the key recommendations in a new report on how to address the country’s acute shortage of childcare places.
Brianna Piazza reports…
The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government is calling for new national planning and development guidelines covering child care centres.
They’d give local councils the authority to approve a wider range of locations for childcare facilities.
Centre director, Roberta Ryan, says identifying suitable, vacant land in inner urban areas can be challenging.
“In the ACT they do a lot of examples where they put childcare centres in areas where there’s schools and that helps parents in terms of drop off and pick up but it’s also quite an efficient use of land. Of course the population of communities change over time, so sometimes the population is aging, sometimes there’s populations dominated by adolescents and children. One of the things we can think about is suggesting that buildings can be designed and built so that they can be used flexibly as the needs of that community changes.”
The previous federal Labor government commissioned the report. Early Childhood Australia welcomes the guidelines.
But CEO Samantha Page says they’re only a starting point in addressing problems in the sector.
“They’re not the whole solution. I mean there’s other issues we need to address as well in terms of we need a good supply of qualified early childhood educators, we need to address wage rates in the sector to reduce the level of turnover in the system and other problems we have.”
Local governments wouldn’t be forced to apply the recommendations.
Samantha Page believes this means some councils won’t make it a priority.
“If we had all local governments thinking the provision of children’s services is a priority and a key part of a thriving economy then we wouldn’t need national guidelines.”
Samantha Page says another issue is the length of time it takes for council to approve new buildings.
“It can just be too lengthy a process to go through planning approval in order to bring a centre online. You can imagine it’s quite a significant investment to build and establish a new centre. If the demand is there now but it’s going to take three years to get the centre online the demand may not be there in three years’ time. So what we need to be is to be able to respond more quickly.”
Australia’s states and territories have different planning laws.
The rules and regulations can change from one council area to another.
Roberta Ryan from the Centre of Excellence for Local Government says having uniform national planning policies would help.
“We interviewed childcare providers, both not-for-profit as well as commercial providers. Sometimes they find the rules and regulations that happen in different states or even from council area to council area challenging. So what’s permissible or possible in one place, across the road it might not be because the rules are different. So one of the purposes of the guidelines was to say here are some good practice examples from councils that could be adopted by other councils to help with that consistency.”