LAST Monday, South Gippsland Shire Projects Coordinator Shelley Fixter described the under-construction Corner Inlet Children’s Hub in Pioneer Street Foster as “approaching the sharp end”, which was “very exciting”.
She was very positive about the way different interests in the Hub were pulling together to make it all happen, from the work of the Hub Reference Group in completing the formal vision and broad outcomes of the facility through to the flexibility and hard work of the contractors in keeping the project on time.
“Corner Inlet has a tight-knit community and its effort in successfully undertaking the lobbying for the funding that is getting the Hub built and operated is a clear example of that, and one which I am sure will also lead to the success of the Hub,” she observed.
Ms Fixter anticipated that two choices of official name for the Hub would be made public for comment next week so that the local community can assist the Reference Group in determining what the label that the integrated children’s kindergarten, child care and other family services facility will be known by.
Ms Fixter said the options will be between an aboriginal word relating to children and a geographical-type description of the facility, however until cultural aspects of the aboriginal term had been confirmed, she was not yet in a position to reveal what the actual options would be.
However she assured that the request for feedback would be advised through The Mirror.
Ms Fixter was very positive about the work of the building contractors and sub-contractors, noting that they had been very accommodating and were still on track for completion of the Hub at the end of April.
“The cabinets have been installed, electricals, plumbing, carpeting and painting are 80% complete and the external paving is 75% complete,” she said.
“Since the change in Prime Minister, we have had the April completion time accepted for our works program (as opposed to the December 2010 completion timetable imposed as an initial funding condition) by the Federal Department of Education and Early Childhood.”
Observing that it wasn’t common for public works to be completed to the original timetable, Ms Fixter praised the contractors as being “fantastic in finding ways to keep working around hiccups, such as delay in some of the external verandah materials coming from a Toowoomba factory impacted by the recent Queensland floods.”
By the end of this week, the landscape/playground design contract will have been awarded to one of a selection of experts that submitted quotes for the job, with all having professional experience in designing outdoor space for integrated children’s facilities.
By the end of the month, the design will have been commenced, with the Reference Group having a final check of the plan before it is adopted.
“People will probably find that the play area looks different to the playgrounds in parks because the Hub’s outdoor area will have an emphasis on multifunction flexibility and on educational, developmental experiences,” Ms Fixter explained.
“There will be a lot of moveable equipment so that it can be shifted to allow space for a ball game or to go under the verandah cover if required.
“The play area will have an emphasis on space to run around in and natural materials in line with the responses and advice we received from public consultation sessions, from the Hub Reference Group and a sub-committee on the playground.”
She continued, “Children will be able to climb, run, ride trikes, jump, dig and kick a ball at different levels of skill in spaces that are well over the minimum requirements for such facilities.
“The 0- to 3-year-old child care area will have its own separately fenced outdoor area, while the 3-5 years childcare and kindergarten will share the rest of the outdoor space.
“A lot of it will look like a garden with paths and decks so that the environment enhances creativity, freedom, imagination, exploration and development.
“The consultants will design a master plan that can be implemented in stages and allows for play equipment to be brought over from Foster Kindergarten.”
Ms Fixter pointed out that “staging will allow both for parents and committees to put their own stamp on how the playground develops, and enables future development as additional funding becomes available.”
CHILD, FAMILY, COMMUNITY
As the Reference Group continues work on the strategies and specific ways in which the Hub will work towards its vision, the wellbeing of the child within the context of their family and the wider community will be central.
Ms Fixter outlined, “The Reference Group is currently working on a concrete action plan covering the nitty-gritty of areas such as training, governance, networking with other services and early intervention strategies, explaining who does what and when.
“Overall, it’s not just about doing the best for the child within the resources of the kindergarten or the child care service, it’s about the entire context, the bigger picture.
“If there are any issues, it’s all about early intervention and referral to the most appropriate service for the purpose of maximising the child’s potential future development as a person.”
She envisaged, “The staff will have training and experience in linking the children and families to wider, integrated services whether they be health-related or other types of support, and it may be possible to get this training happening as various experts come to look at the Hub’s operation.
“Ideally, most extra services will be accessed at the Hub making it easier for people to take them up, but there will be times that people will have to travel further afield, however staff will be supportive in helping make the links, from the most appropriate type of referral through to making appointments.”
At this stage, Ms Fixter said Gippsland Uniting Care (GUC) was looking at appointing a Coordinator for the Hub.
She added that operation of the Hub will be supported by Federal funding of $249,500 over four years to cover the expected gap between the cost of operation and financial ‘break even’ point in the starting up of the facility, after which time she was optimistic that the Hub could be financially self-supporting.
To date, GUC has received registrations of interest for child care for 22 children.
Ms Fixter urged anyone else wanting or considering long day child care to contact GUC promptly.
“Registration of interest won’t lock you into anything and it gives GUC an idea of how many children and what types and hours of service are being sought, which will help with planning staff employment.”
GUC [formerly known as Kilmany Uniting Care] can be contacted on 5662 5150.