The uncertainty surrounding the future of Far West Family Day Care was a hot topic at a boisterous full City Council meeting on Wednesday with the public gallery full of day care staff, concerned parents, and members of the community who were often very vocal.
After a tense opening public forum session, which on occasion saw members of the gallery yelling out, and one of many heated exchanges between Cllr Ron Page and Mayor Tom Kennedy, which continued throughout the evening, there were some positive noises around the future of the service as councillors spoke about ensuring the service didn’t disappear.
The service on Oxide St – which caters for 142 children and 111 families has been funded by Cobar Shire Council (CSC) for three years after a previous Broken Hill Council decided not to help fund it. CSC has now said it is looking to eventually withdraw from the arrangement, so the race is on to find a solution.
After the council meeting Mayor Kennedy said a price rise for parents and carers who took their children to the centre – that comes into effect on Monday – meant it could potentially become a more attractive business for existing child care providers. Costs go up on September 4 from $1.75 per child per hour to $2 per child per hour.
Cllr Kennedy said he was disappointed with Cobar Shire Council for what he claimed was misinformation being spread, which he said was causing unnecessary stress across the community.
“Cobar Shire said that Broken Hill City Council had not contacted them at all, but that is not true. We have been in regular contact. When things like that are going out to educators, that concerns me as the mayor,” Cllr Kennedy said.
CSC General Manager, Peter Vlatko, contends that although there has been contact, there has been no formal discussion between the two parties.
“We haven’t sat down with Broken Hill City Council formally to discuss all the options or their position,” Mr Vlatko said.
One thing both parties agree on is Regional Development Australia Far West’s (RDAFW) decision to enter the situation and offer support is a good thing, although nothing concrete has been agreed so far.
“Michael [Williams, RDAFW’s CEO] called me, and we discussed the situation. I am happy that he contacted me and expressed his concern at the service going away, because I don’t think that’s what anybody wants,” Mr Vlatko said.
“They [RDAFW] are interested in doing what they can to ensure the service remains intact, which is fantastic,” Mayor Kennedy confirmed.
Far West Family Day Care coordinator, Stacey Smith, told us, “I just had a meeting with Michael Williams from RDA, and they have been very helpful. They are looking at all aspects for us. I am very thankful for those who did attend the Council meeting last night and showed their support for us, because we need it.”
We reached out to RDAFW for additional comment but were unable to get any before our print deadline.