Councils call for Commonwealth support in tackling kinder crisis

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been advised by local government in Victoria that her electorate of Lalor is one of the state’s most at-risk regions in the ‘kinder crisis’.

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has called on the Government to commit $600 million for Victorian kindergarten centres and ensure children have universal access to preschool before their first year of primary school.

MAV president Bill McArthur said there would be an overwhelming demand for four-year old preschool enrolments in 2011 and a potential crisis by 2013 when the 15-hour preschool week is introduced.

“Children are now trying to secure a place in facilities that are bursting at the seams,” Cr McArthur said in a statement.

“We’ve recently started to see the first causalities of Victoria’s kindergarten crisis, which relies too heavily on goodwill and fundraising from councils and community groups to maintain the service.

“The MAV is aware of three-year old preschool programs being axed for 2011 to meet the growing demand for four-year old places, and some municipalities have seen a surge in waiting lists.”

Cr McArthur said the State Government had committed funding for four-year old enrolments, but Commonwealth funding was required to build and expand kindergarten facilities.

“The Prime Minister must urgently rewrite the 2008 Commonwealth-Victorian Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education, and must also fast-track the findings of the COAG mid-term review, which isn’t expected to be finalised for another six months,” he said.

“We need urgent funding so councils can begin expanding existing facilities and commence building new kindergartens now.”

Two-thirds of kindergarten facilities were owned by councils, with the majority of programs run by the community.

Cr McArthur said by 2013, Victoria would require 50 per cent more facilities and 400 extra trained staff to increase the preschool program to 15 hours per week.

MAV has sought an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister to appeal for Commonwealth funds.

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