22 February 2024

New preschools to be built in Beelbangera, Hanwood and Leeton as Riverina ‘childcare desert’ tackled

| Oliver Jacques
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Two toddlers side by side

Andrew Haskins, 2, and Charlotte Young, 3, have welcomed the news that Beelbangera will soon have a new preschool. Both have siblings that go to Beelbangera Public. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

NSW Education Minister Prue Car has announced that new preschools will be built in Beelbangera, Hanwood, Leeton, Deniliquin and Albury as the State Government tackles the lack of early childhood learning placements in regional areas.

The Riverina area has one of the worst childcare and preschool placement shortages in Australia, according to research from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute.

In the Griffith region for example, 10 children under the age of four compete for every available space in early childhood learning. More than 90 per cent of families live in what the institute describes as a “childcare desert”, meaning there are less than 0.33 places available around them for each child.

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Sophie Bozic, who runs a mums and bubs support group in Griffith, says finding available placements for both preschool and early learning is very difficult in town.

“Building new preschools definitely helps, there’s a real shortage here,” she said. “We got rejected from two preschools for our kids because they have to take older children first. It’s the same for so many other mums.”

The NSW Government says it will be co-locating public preschools with existing schools to ensure children are ready for Kindergarten, assist busy working families with cost-of-living pressures, help avoid the double drop off, and make the transition to school as seamless as possible.

The government has pledged to build 100 new preschools across the state.

Barry Romeo in front of school sign

Second-generation Beelbangera Public student Barry Romeo will be able to send his kids to a local preschool. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

“There’s also a need to address early childhood too,” Ms Bozic says.

“I’ve been told that there are 100-plus families on waitlists. There are a lot of families waiting for even a day of care a week.

“I know mums that choose to stay at home because they can’t afford the cost of childcare.”

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The NSW Government says it has also committed up to $29.4 million to expand the number of early childhood workers in NSW through a scholarship program and will also provide $17 million to support capital works for early childhood services in areas of need.

But the main focus of this week’s announcement was on preschools.

“This investment in public preschools is the largest made by any government in NSW’s history,” Minister Car said.

“This significant investment reflects the NSW Labor Government’s commitment to high quality public education, and our belief that access to early childhood education before school should not be defined by your postcode.”

The new Riverina preschools will be built at Beelbangera Public School, Hanwood Public School, Leeton Public School, Parkview Public School, Deniliquin South Public School and the new Thurgoona school in Albury.

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