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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20549

Ms VAMVAKINOU (9:55 AM) —I rise to speak about the Brotherhood of St Laurence Family Day Care Centre in Craigieburn, which is run by the very dedicated and caring manager, Eileen Buckley. In doing so, I want to speak about some of the great initiatives in my region and the devastating effects—unless resolved—that this government's current review of the child-care sector will have. Primarily a provider of family day care, the Brotherhood of St Laurence also offers emergency loan and counselling services, outreach programs run by Anglicare, a private psychologist and a parenting program. Community groups that utilise the site include an emergency response team, the Burners Community Play Group, the Historical Interest Group and Little Athletics. The brotherhood has received requests for the use of facilities from Vietnam vets and from other church groups. As you can see from its participants, it is very much a community hub which brings groups and services together in my electorate.

Most family day care services are auspiced by local government. The brotherhood is one of the few non-government provider services receiving funding from the Child Care Support Broadband Program, a Commonwealth government program, at $184 million per annum. This family day care service has six staff that support 68 registered care providers, some 368 families and over 500 children. It provides quality, affordable and flexible child care. For many children placed with carers this is a second family, providing a stable relationship in a small group that ensures individual attention. Children are placed in a comfortable family environment which becomes a home away from home for them. Support is also offered for parents and carers, backed up by regular on-site visits by staff of the Family Day Care Coordination Unit.

The manager of the service says that the carers have played an important role in identifying speech or physical impairment or sudden changes in behaviour that may indicate other problems, including sexual abuse. The Sunbury and Craigieburn offices have helped meet local child-care demand that has blown out to a six-month wait in some places. People providing family day care are accredited and trained, and are given security and occupational health and safety checks before being able to care for children. Some carers have cared for children for up to 20 years, and a generation that was once placed with the service has now approached the service to offer themselves in the role of carer for other children.

The child-care support broadband review announced in November 2002, which is being conducted by this government, has raised many concerns amongst professionals in the sector. We estimate that family day care providers will lose up to $54 million in operational subsidies, affecting 126,000 children of more than 60,000 Australian families using the service. Certainly my electorate will be seriously disadvantaged and our professionals, including local people, are concerned that this diluting and redirecting of funds will disadvantage ordinary families and possibly even jeopardise the quality of services that the government wants to target to special needs. If you undermine funding to the current administration structures, then you are threatening the quality of the services and the benefits they provide—benefits such as welfare and counselling, and even early detection of learning and behavioural issues in young children.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! In accordance with standing order 275A, the time for members' statements has concluded.