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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31741

Mr RIPOLL (9:40 AM) —This morning I would like to place on the public record my disappointment with the Howard government's approach to child care. In particular, I want to highlight the case of a local school in my electorate of Oxley—St Augustine's College. St Augustine's College is a P to 12 school that operates a before- and after-school day care facility. Sadly, it will not be able to open its doors during the upcoming school holiday period because it has still not received any financial assistance from the federal government. The school made an application for assistance to operate an outside school hours care facility in May 2002, and approval was not given.

I wrote to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs about St Augustine's case in April 2003, requesting that the minister and his department look at providing funding assistance to the school so that it can operate this outside school hours care facility. To date, the school does not get assistance from the Howard government to provide its much needed high-quality services. I can personally attest to the great level of service provided by St Augustine's, and many people in the local community also appreciate the school's commitment to providing great services for outside school hours care. These services are in demand in the local community. Without the federal government's assistance, it cannot operate effectively during the school holidays as families are forced, due to financial considerations, to take their children to another facility which receives federal government assistance through the child care benefits scheme.

St Augustine's have once again written to the department requesting assistance but they were told that it would all be finalised by 1 June this year. This did not happen. After contacting the department again, they were told that all would be finalised by 1 July. It may well be finalised by 1 July, but this will be way too late for St Augustine's and the upcoming school holiday period, and for all the parents who would use the facility during that time.

I also commend the efforts of the school and of the carers at St Augustine's. I particularly want to mention the child-care facility coordinator, Michelle Rutledge, Principal Leon Capra and all the staff who do a fantastic job at the school. The school is making an extraordinary effort to keep this child-care facility open at the lowest possible cost to parents. This is a direct cost to the school, and parents get no assistance from the government. This centre is being run at a loss to the school to ensure that this vital service is provided to parents.

I am calling on the minister and the Howard government to get their act together and provide financial assistance, as was promised, to schools like St Augustine's so that they can have some certainty and get on with providing a first-rate service for the local community and the parents of the school. Our community needs school communities like that of St Augustine's, and anything the federal government can do to help them operate should be done. It is really sad that, while there is extra funding for child care, it is not being directed into the areas of highest need. St Augustine's is a school of need and it needs to have this funding for its child-care facility so it can operate not only during school hours but also after school hours and during the school holiday period. (Time expired)